Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TDCJ proposes 5% budget cuts

Though the agency requested an exemption from budget cuts, here's the proposal (pdf) the Texas Department of Criminal Justice submitted to state leadership yesterday regarding how it would cut 5% from its budget without closing any prison units - mostly by laying off more than 3,000 employees. I'll have more to say on this when I've had a chance to read it in more detail, but wanted to get the link out there. UPDATE: See initial coverage from AP, the Austin Statesman, and the Houston Chronicle.

The Texas Youth Commission was late with its submission but I'll add a link when it becomes available. UPDATE: Here's the link. See a brief description from Mike Ward at the Statesman, who reports:
Victory Field Correctional Academy in Vernon and the West Texas State School in Pyote, both slated to be closed in August, will instead would shut down April 2 to save about $3.5 million.
Six dorms at several youth prisons would be closed and a total of 138 jobs — some filled and some vacant — would be eliminated to save about $9 million. But officials cautioned in the budget-reduction plan that the dorm closures and layoffs could disrupt operations, and they requested an exemption to ensure that safety and security are maintained.
Staff vacancies would not be filled to save about $7.5 million.
UPDATE: Here's the plan for budget reductions (pdf) at the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Statesman has more.

AND MORE: Here are the proposed cuts (pdf) suggested at the Juvenile Probation Commission.

NUTHER UPDATE: I'll have a more complete analysis later, but here are the TDCJ budget items that stood out upon initial perusal of their proposed reductions (most of which they've suggested be waived):
  • Firing 2,037 security staff
  • Slash operational funds for food and fuel, assuming non constat that market prices won't fluctuate
  • Slashing $42 million from mental health care
  • Reduce the number of probation officers, parole officers and Hearing Officers at the Board of Pardons and Parole
  • Cut direct funding to CSCDs for probation officers by $22 million
  • Transfer "underutilized" or unspent treatment diversion funding, since as the programs rolled out, "utilization rates have been below appropriated levels." (The message here to judges and CSCD directors: Use it or lose it!)
  • Eliminating energy and water conservation programs
  • Divert $5 million in commissary profits currently used for inmate recreational and educational materials to budget reduction
  • Delay opening long-term medical facility in Marlin
  • Cuts to substance abuse treatment, intermediate sanctions facilities, treatment services, halfway houses, and the State Counsel for Offenders
Among possible cuts TDCJ alluded to but did not formally suggest: TDCJ has replacement contracts with several private facilities it's scheduled to renew in the next 12 months. But since the agency presently enjoys more than 2,300 empty beds, including private capacity (with numbers trending downward), perhaps those inmates should be absorbed into other units and some or all of those contracts be allowed to expire?

Otherwise, this is a very political document from TDCJ, cutting popular programs and suggesting large staffing cuts that make no sense from a security standpoint unless they actually close prisons. And yet, they suggest cutting everything but prisons, including programs that have helped reduce prison populations and saved the state hundreds of of millions in additional incarceration costs.

TDCJ is asking for an exemption from budget cuts, but I don't think that's necessary. Rather, since the agency is circling the wagons and suggesting only cuts that would harm public safety and cripple the agency operationally, the Lege will probably have to step in and set their priorities for them. This document is more ploy than plan - suggesting the unthinkable, ignoring more modest, reasonable potential cuts, then insisting the agency should not be required to share any budget-cut pain at all.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe that's 5% per year for the next two years.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I thought so, too, but the letter to the Governor's budget director said "5% of the current 2010-11 biennial budget."

Angee said...

WHAT?????????? We're backing up!!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not quite yet, Angee. Think of this as the opening bet in a poker game. They're just pointing to critical infrastructure and popular programs and telling the Lege, if you make us cut our budget this biennium, we'll do a bunch of radical, regressive stuff you won't like.

That may stave off cuts in the interim, but when 2011 rolls around, the Lege will set those priorities, not Brad Livingston.

Anonymous said...

Brad Livingston has been on thin ice with the Leg. this year. If he wins this bluff, he will regain some status. On the other hand if his proposal is seen as "in your face", the Leg may not only find the 5% for him, but part of it may come from a savings on his salary!!

JTP

Steve said...

As far as adult probation is concerned, the cuts for the underutilized treatment beds are quite reasonable. Over the last four years, TDCJ has poured millions of dollars into outpatient treatment. It worked. As a result, there has been a smaller demand for residential treatment.

When TDCJ decided to increase the number of SAFPF beds and create the state contracted ISF beds, they didn't do a needs study (which a CSCD is required to do before opening a residential facility). They didn't ask the CSCDs what was needed, they just pulled some numbers out of a hat. As a result, there are many unused state beds scheduled to go on line. Therefore, it's not a bad idea to cut this.

If the worst case scenario happens and probation is cut by $22 million for the biennium, it won't be all that bad. That represents less than 5% of the state funds that go to CSCDs. There may be some devilish details that we don't know about, but so far, so good.

Anonymous said...

"Slashing $42 million from mental health care."

I can't believe there even spending $42 million on mental health care. Considering how little mental health care is provided I wonder where all that money is going?

They could increase the profits from the commissary if they'd keep popular items in stock. They lose money because they don't have the stuff to sell. I wonder how much more money they could make if they'd keep it fully stocked.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why TYC has waited so long to close West Texas and Victory Field. The populations at both facilities were significantly reduced last year. Based on the population totals it would seem that it would have been must more cost effective to close them rather than keeping them open for so long. Understandably there is concern for the employees and their families but then end result appeared inevitable a year and half ago.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we look at who we've actually put in prison case by case. I'm sure you'll find that certain counties ( Wilco for one) have ungodly and un-neccesary sentence lengths that do more harm than good to society as well as the budget. Lets get our parole system in working order so that those who did get an outrageous sentence... the 75 years for a car accident, but someone else from Harris county got 20 years for a planned murder. And someone else, high on cocaine and alcohol, careening their car and ultimatly killing their victim got no jail time, but had the audacity to sue because her passenger had emotional trauma from the car accident she caused! Let's fix the system not bleed it dry! I'm writing anonymously because I can't sign in. Sandra

Anonymous said...

Maybe the under utilized treatment beds are becuase not enough people are getting out on parole!

Anonymous said...

Why the cuts?
Slick Rick says on his TV campaign ad that there's Gazillions in the surplus funds.

Anonymous said...

Well, all agencies are having to cut, including state hospital beds. Generally, when you cut social services spending, this inversely relates to spending in criminal justice. I doubt the cuts are going to be actualized as great as feared. Nonetheless, it is interesting that Perry relates these spending cuts to the end of stimulus packages, but I don't recall stimulus packages creating SAFPF beds or prisons, or many of the things being cut.

Anonymous said...

The gazillians in reserves needs to stay there. Don't Obama these funds and waste them now for no reason. Close all of TYC and half of TDJC and make big savings. These folks can be abused some where else than by the public funds. Make people go to work and get off welfare. Stop paying idiots for their mortages they shouldn't have taken in the first place,. Start some responsibility or go to jail!

Anonymous said...

I thought he said we didn't need that money and planned to organize an unconstitutional secession?

and by the way the two TYC units mentioned earlier are way down on population and it looks like the target closure date is April 2nd, 2010.

Anonymous said...

Should have been April 08.

sunray's wench said...

the only trouble with playing a bluff game is that someone will always call you on it. Perry could read the TDCJ shopping (what's the opposite of shopping?) list and say "OK fellas, do it." Then the 2500 positions that TDCJ said last week they had managed to "fill" will have been a wasted effort because they will have to let roughly the same amount of staff go again.

I agree, the $42 million on mental health care looks ridiculous on paper, but I suspect that some of these figures are being counted at least twice (mental health care = treatment beds).

If they are going to cut the number of parole officers and in-unit parole hearing officers, then they are simply going to have to start paroling inmates without the BPP, when they reach their first possible date. It already takes too long to review the files, wait for the BPP to make their decision, print the parole certificate (yes, print, on paper) and then organise the release. Cutting any staff there is going to mean keeping parole elligible inmates in prison for even longer - which costs more money not less.

I always thought gambling was illegal in Texas...

Anonymous said...

Let's close down the TYC facilities that are no longer needed. With only 1,481 committments in 2009 why does TYC maintain facilities with 3,438 beds? When West Texas and Victory Field shut down that takes 576 beds from the total still leaving 2,862 beds available. Shut down the 3 remaining oldest facilities (Corisicana, Gainsville, Crockett) and that would eliminate another 538 beds. Now TYC would be RIGHT sized with 2,324 beds available. By eliminating the 3 additional facilities TYC's budget was just cut $41 mil on top of the first 2 closures. Now then eliminate unneeded administrative staff, move the ineffective parole system to the county probation departments along with that unit's $12 mil and were done. COst savings of facility closures alone @ $50mil per bienium.
D. Woody

Dirty Harry said...

If TYC really wanted to save some money, they could do away with that fictitious new "reading program" that was supposed to happen starting Sept last year, but has yet to materialize. I find it amazing that nobody has bothered to add 2+2 in regard to this smoke and mirrors act. They claim they are going to create a new statewide reading program on just a 375,000 grant. It's listed in the 2010 budget on page 5. Do the math. This amount might hire you 8 reading teachers if you are lucky. What about grant overhead? What about curriculum? What about materials? What about program assessment? No wonder this "new" program is only happening at the units that already had a reading program in place before the miracle was announced. DUH!

Trim the budget? You can't believe a thing you read in those budgets to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Woody how will parole be more effective in the county departments? No one ever talks about parole from TYC. Just Adult. Looks like they are cutting.

Anonymous said...

TYC Parole is a joke. In our surrounding areas we rely on someone from Houston to serve our kids. You never can get anyone to make a decision or even show up when a kid reoffends. Most of the time there are no sanctions placed on the kid for violations and we end up having to recommit based on new charges. TYC Parole needs to grow some....

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:11, fyi, see this discussion of possibly moving TYC parole to counties.

Marie T said...

The commissary profits come from families, not from taxes. I just love the way funds are diverted - think TxDot and the gasoline tax. Do these people really think they operate in a vacuum and no one sees what they are doing? Bad thing is same thing happened in our local town budget - crime tax diverted to pay for new town hall building. I said my piece, but it didn't help. I will speak at the polls, hope everyone else does too. Without Perry, Legislators might think twice about these outlandish suggestions.

Anonymous said...

It makes no sense to cut energy and water conservation that would reduce monthly bills later on. Penny wise, pound foolish.

Anonymous said...

Grits after rereading the past discussions on TYC parole, Suset, etc. it feels as though the merging of TYC and TJPC is envitable. What are your thoughts? When do you suspect the merger might begin?

Anonymous said...

They could increase the profits from the commissary if they'd keep popular items in stock. They lose money because they don't have the stuff to sell. I wonder how much more money they could make if they'd keep it fully stocked.

I can see price increases really quick.

sunray's wench said...

The way TDCJ commissary is operated is bizarre. Making inmates stand around for hours (sometimes all day) waiting to get to the commissary window while Officers jump the line and purchase items intended for inmates, and then if the inmate does get to the window, chances are most of the items they want to purchase are out of stock.

Why is it so difficult for TDCJ to adopt the practices that work in other states? Why not let inmates fill out a "shopping list" once a week and just drop it in a safe box (just like they do with mail). The boxes could be emptied once a day, the orders filled without the inmate having any contact with the commissary clerk, and then the items delivered back to the inmate along with their mail, or during mail call.

Why is that so difficult? Oh yeah, because TDCJ will soon have 3000 less staff again...

Anonymous said...

The merging of the 2 should have happened last session but there was too much of a smoke screen put up by TJPC. I don't care who takes the lead in case of a merger but it just makes too much sense not to do so. The cost savings far outweighs the sancticy of keeping the agencies seperate. It will take a gutsy performance by someone in the house to make it happen. The senate seemed to be on board last session but the house was weak.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, 10:55, they didn't merge them last session, so I don't know if it's likely or not. They're in the Sunset process again this time, but quien sabe? I wouldn't make book on it either way.

Anonymous said...

TYC should have been cut back severly in 07. There is much too much waste in this outdated and abusive agency. This agency cannot be justified in the modern Texas.

Anonymous said...

Enough support was generated last session from the probation field to put a doubt in the legislator's minds that merging was a bad thing. The twinge of fear was cast from TJPC of what would happen to funding if the 2 merged so the unknown factor caused probation departments to back TJPC regardless of whether they wanted to or not. With events that have occurred in the past 6 months TJPC would not garner the same amount of support from the county departments as last session and possibly there would be many more offering up the opinion that abolishment and restructuring would be a great thing. Certainly would not hurt.

Anonymous said...

Here is an idea: Why not pare down the number of parolees. This would be concommitant to cutting parole officers. If not not, you give the remaining parole officers larger case loads and with larger case loads comes less effective monitoring. Suggested criteria: Any parolee that has served 20+ years in TDCJ, been out 4+ years with no violation(s)and is 45+ years old.

Anonymous said...

and 12:31 - just where do you propose the state place these violent and very dangerous teenagers? Wanna do the cost effective thing and just send them to prison, where they can what? Learn how to be a more violent and dangerous person? You make no sence.

Anonymous said...

0124: You make no sense. You're trying to justify the unjustifiable. TYC has made worse criminals for the past several years of those sent to them. Its well documented. More waste cannot be justified to satisy a few that don't see waste right in their own presence. Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts. Bad youth can be placed locally and provided treatment, which TYC never has done.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to justify TYC's existance. I've got nothing to do with them other than to send my kids on probation there. We've sent kids to TYC from the counties because they have higher restriction programs and resources we don't have. So unless they build more secure facilities here, keeping them in the county isn't the answer. In this economy, I don't see that happening. And I don't agree at all with your statement that TYC hasn't helped kids. I've seen kids we sent return with a new outlook on life. So no, you are painting that agency with a broad brush. Whenever we deal with hard delinquents, no one, I don't care who, will be always successful. It's the nature of the beast.

Anonymous said...

Be sure to vote people! Time for a change.

Anonymous said...

When was the last time (if ever) the ledge discussed term limits? We do need a change in Austin. Get all these career politicans out of there.

Anonymous said...

Term limits won't change the wasteful spending in the states agencies. CEOs are the problem there, along with greed and unlimited power.

Boyness said...

Bean-counter Livingston can surely cut 5% without putting the public in "danger". These people MAKE ME SICK! FIRE LIVINGSTON and close some of the POLE BARNS that somehow pass as prisons. Get over it Texas your prison-industrial complex is crumbling, the state is saturated with felons and prisons we cannot staff. AGGGGGHGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Gosh all that decoration and new offices at the annex..too bad that can't go back and pull that money out of the hat!!
Wonder when they will give Vernon and Peyote the dates,, April 1

Anonymous said...

Maybe that was the problem out west, smoking too much peyote.

Anonymous said...

How can 'state cloaked child abusers' deserve our care? We have poured giant amounts of money into this system of child care/....and look what happened. Some eat their own and TYC has eaten itself. Greed and abuse of power never wins in the long run. People tire of it after awhileand react by cutting off funding.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me that Gov Perry is touting the billions and billions of dollars that Texas has in reserve since his election on his campaign tv ads. While all state agencies are being asked to cut their budgets by 5%. What kind of sense does that make? It's time to vote him out of office along with all the elected officials coming up for re-election at the state level. Clearly, jibberish!!!

Anonymous said...

Its time to fire a bunch of people that want to spend, spend, spend....are you related to Obama? The Texas funds need to stay there for a real emergewncy. You people gripe and want everything given to you. Get a job. Stop the complaints. Do some public good for a change. Stop the welfare ripoffs. Stop the babies from bastards. Get some responsibility from parents. Fine parents and negiligent mothers and parents, legal or not. Stop the foodstamps and beer freebees. The state is not responsible for you....grow up or leave the country!

Anonymous said...

Scott, there may be 2300 vacant beds in TDCJ but over 1000 of them are SAFP beds (this I know), the others I hear are trusty beds. Currently counties are sending about 15% of offenders to SAFP since they got their grant monies to start their own programs.

I believe when they say prisons will not close, they are not talking about safp, state jails, transfer facilities, medical facilities - none of these are "prisons" although some may be under CID as compared to SJ.

The unit I am on has over 400 vacancies and right now between all staff, counselors and security we have about a ratio of 2 staff per every inmate. We are not the only unit in this situation and everyone is worried about their jobs. Counselors had phone conference with Huntsville, who promised them no cuts to their jobs, just no hiring due to natural attrition. Someone is lying.....

Anonymous said...

7:51 p.m. Just what good do you for the public? Sounds like someone hit a sore spot, are you the guv's campaign manager? If I recall correctly, everyone has the right to an opinion in this great country of ours.

Anonymous said...

Apparantly you don't recall correctly since my opinion counts and yours doesn't. Now butt out.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr leave the country when they start releasing these inmates in your back yard because of all the cut backs and because the state won't give the funding they need and you or your family becomes a crime victim I guess you will still stick by your convictions. Don't you watch the news and see how messed up TDCJ is already wait and see what happens after all the cut backs. You maybe the one who wants to leave the country then.

Anonymous said...

You must be related to Obama. Tyring to scare the public to get his and your way. Go away, cry baby.

Anonymous said...

I got a few ideas if you want to save money. Take all the inmates fans, radios and hotpots away that will save lots of energy. Trim their meals down these inmates eat better than our children do at school. I don't think that cutting security jobs is very smart cut clerical and deligate there jobs to security.

Anonymous said...

The layoffs have happened. They are now history. They happened this week. It's a sad day when anyone looses their job thru no fault of their own. Layoffs are happening not just at TDCJ but also private companys and corporations. Strange we don't see executives loosing their jobs. But! Everything is fine. The stock market is up! Unemployment just dropped to 8.9 per cent even with all of these layoffs. Job outsourcing to other contries continues and the rich become even more wealthy. So long middle class. It's not a theory. Oh by the way...I was layed off from my job 1 month before being vested for retirement...last year. No sympathy requested. I'm just sorry for others who also lost their jobs and are having a difficult time finding a new one.