Here's the full list (pdf) of interim charges and below are the criminal-justice related issues among them I identified (duplicates deleted where committees have joint charges):
Appropriations:Several items here stand out. For starters, it's interesting to me that Appropriations will independently investigate prison health care costs. That indicates that, as state cost drivers go, prison health has made it fully onto state leaders' radar screens. Texas spends nearly $1 billion per biennium on prison health care, and costs are increasing largely as a function of long sentences and an aging prisoner population - inmates age 55 and older consume healthcare services at three times the rate of their younger counterparts.
10. Examine annual cost increases and the factors related to the increases for Correctional Managed Health Care. Recommend policy changes that could yield savings to the state.
14. Monitor and review the disbursement and use of border and homeland security funds. Evaluate the effectiveness in meeting the state's border and homeland security program goals and objectives. Joint Interim Charge with House Committee on Defense and Veterans' Affairs
Border and Intergovernmental Affairs
1. Evaluate the effectiveness of state operations at controlling drug-related crimes and other violence along the Texas-Mexico border. Joint Interim Charge with House Committee on Public Safety
1. Examine implementation of the diversion pilot programs, juvenile case management system, and other policy and funding initiatives to determine whether the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and the Texas Youth Commission have adhered to legislative directive in implementing these programs, and the impact of these programs on commitments at the Texas Youth Commission. Joint Interim Charge with House Committee on Appropriations
2. Study and evaluate the availability and efficiency of community-based corrections supervision and treatment programs and their impact on prison capacity and recidivism rates. Determine whether the supervision and treatment programs have been designed in accordance with evidence-based practices and whether adequate evaluation methods have been incorporated.
3. Study current re-entry programs and procedures across the juvenile and adult criminal justice continuum. Make recommendations to ensure that offenders who are released or discharged have the necessary supervision and access to employment, housing, treatment, and other support programs to allow successful entry and integration into the community. Evaluate the working relationship between state agencies facilitating re-entry and make recommendations on how to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings.
4. Examine policies and programs designed to identify, divert, and enhance the supervision and treatment of special needs offenders within local jails and state correctional facilities. Recommend changes to address appropriate alternatives to incarceration or institutionalization.
5. Review the range of services provided to females in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems and recommend changes to ensure responsiveness to gender-specific issues. Review should include institutional and community supervision programs and utilization of correctional facilities that house nonadjudicated populations.
3. Study county oversight related to pretrial release on bond in criminal cases.
1. Examine the deferred adjudication system in Texas and recommend legislative changes.
2. Study how the state presently supports the establishment and maintenance of public defender offices.
3. Study the human and sex trafficking problem in Texas. Make recommendations on best practices in the areas of investigation, prosecution, and tracking of the victims of these crimes. Study whether victims of these crimes are allowed to adequately recover from their attackers in a civil cause of action. Joint Interim Charge with House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence
4. Monitor the implementation of SB 1940 (81R), which established veterans court programs in Texas, and examine the link between combat stress disorders of war veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and the onset of criminal behavior. Joint Interim Charge with House Committee on Defense and Veterans' Affairs
1. Study the recruitment and retention practices that the Department of Public Safety currently employs and make recommendations on how to make improvements. Specifically, examine the current officer shortage in Texas and the effect it is having on the state's public safety.
2. Investigate best practices to process concealed hand gun licenses in order to alleviate backlog and make recommendations for implementation, if appropriate.
3. Monitor the Driver Responsibility Program and consider methods for overall improvement of the program.
4. Study the statutory definition, duties, and authority of a Texas peace officer.
One also notices that the Border and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee's top issue this go-round is evaluating state border security efforts, whereas last time the first item on their list was "Study the establishment of a citizen trade policy commission and an office of trade development." That's a notable shift in priorities.
The Corrections Committee's plate is full with many issues regularly covered on this blog. By contrast, aside from its charge to investigate deferred adjudication and the narrow issue of veterans courts, the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee's load seems relatively light, avoiding topics regarding overcriminalization and innocence-related issues that I'd have liked to see them take on.
A sleeper on the list may be the County Affairs charge on pretrial bonds. Increased pretrial detention rates are the main cause of county jail overcrowding in Texas and analyzing "county oversight" of the process is a sticky question because so many players are involved.
I'm also glad to see the Public Safety Committee take on the Driver Responsibility Surcharge. We've been waiting for months now for DPS to issue new rules governing the surcharge
Finally, though not directly related to criminal justice, as a blogger I feel obligated to point out this odd charge for the General Investigating and Ethics Committee:
2. Review the definition of "political advertising" and determine whether the definition should be expanded to include content contained in blogs and other types of Internet communications.I don't know what that's about but the discussion will bear watching.