Wednesday, December 08, 2010

TDCJ to absorb 15% of latest state budget cuts

Texas' Governor, Lt. Governor and House Speaker yesterday announced that state agencies must cut an additional 2.5% from their budgets, which at the Department of Criminal Justice will come to $75 million, or about 15% of the $500 million in cuts ordered.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst says the budget gap is only $15-16 billion, not $25 billion as earlier reported, but that's still a gargantuan number that will be difficult to meet with budget cuts alone. If TDCJ were asked to absorb 15% of budget cuts of that magnitude, they'd have to cut $2.25 billion for the biennium, or more than a billion dollars per year (which btw is the scale of prison budget cuts being discussed in Florida).

To do that - hell, even to effectively cut $75 million without increasing recidivism from lack of community supervision and programming - will require closing prison units, which make up around 85% of TDCJ's budget. Not only can't probation and treatment programs take the brunt of cuts, the only way to cut spending so steeply without increasing crime is to boost funding for (much less expensive) probation and treatment while eliminating prison units and decreasing substantially the overall number of people incarcerated. The parole board could do more to help with that task than  the Lege, of course, since the majority of TDCJ inmates are already parole eligible.

So far, TDCJ officials have been unwilling to suggest closing units, but in the face of a shortfall this big I doubt they'll have a choice. The question becomes how will they reduce inmate numbers and close units, not whether they should.

UPDATE/RELATED (Dec. 9): The Houston Chronicle mentions that the TDCJ board will be briefed on the budget implications of suggested cuts at their meeting in Austin this afternoon. Here's their agenda (pdf).

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ain't it funny how history repeats itself? Get ready for the return of the "revolving door" and the "good ol' days" of 10 for 1 good time credit!

Hook Em Horns said...

I LOVE IT! Not because of the impact on public safety which I have always questioned but because the lying bastards are finally going to have to pay there dues.

We, the people, cannot afford the worlds most massive prison system. Shudder some unit's? AMEN!

R. Shackleford said...

10:03 nailed it, here we go round the merry-go-round again. Suits me, actually, sentences are getting downright draconian these days.

TJDO said...

There's going to have to be a mass exodus of inmates to close prison units lest the privates offer up some more beds. TDCJ is already at capacity and this presents some major hurdles shifting around inmates.

Anonymous said...

When there's a revolving door system, isn't someone almost always getting victimized in the community causing that door to revolve?

Kick out the non-violent drug offenders. Keep the violent offenders for term.

Don said...

I still gotta see them close prisons before I'll believe it. Have they ever closed one?

Anonymous said...

They will have to bring back the old BT's to fill in for the guards they will be laying off.

Anonymous said...

TJDO,
Is TDCJ really at capacity? I didn't think it was. What is the current capacity and what is the current population? Thanks in advance.

sunray's wench said...

"Kick out the non-violent drug offenders. Keep the violent offenders for term."

If only it were that simple. Drug offenders released without treatment or rehab go straight back to robbing and thieving to feed their habit. Drug offenders are just as likely to be violent while in prison as anyone else - often more so because they are the skinny guys who need to prove they are no one's bitch.

Get rid of the BPP - who are STILL giving reasons to deny parole that the inmate can do absolutely nothing to change while in prison - and have a sensible parole outlook so everyone knows where they stand with it. Works in other states, why not Texas?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that none of the comments, nor even the original post, mention that the cuts will mean that prisoners will be in extreme danger. It's likely that there will be more prisoner lawsuits as a result of constitutional violations occurring in a stretched to the breaking point system.
Why aren't you numskulls advocating for fewer penal sanctions rather than all this guff about dangerous prisoners. Most prisoners aren't dangerous and are non-violent drug offenders.
You Texans, and I count myself as one, need to drop your tough attitude and think of the consequences of these cuts.
For shame.
Patrick Timmons, PhD (Texas 2004), former Texas Observer writer.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think they ought to bring back chain gangs and put their sorry butts back out in the fields growing their own meat, vegetables and cotton. Once upon a time, before Judge Justice got his hands on it, the Texas prison system was fairly self-supporting and, by all means, a place where people didn't want to go. Whatever deterrant effect prisons in Texas might have once had, pretty much went away with the Ruiz case.

Anonymous said...

The prison system doesn't scare or deter a career criminal. What scares/deters them is being shoved in to general population with other violent prisoners. Might be a good idea for some of you to open up your homes this Christmas and offer to house some inmates for a few months. That would help the taxpayer.

titfortat said...

Sunray,

Does anyone really believe that a large percentage of drug users are being saved by treatment, or that society is being protected by it?

Given your rationale and considering that the ratio of those arrested compared to users is insignificant, it would seem that all of society should stay locked up behind closed doors in fear of a huge population of people who have yet to be and may never be arrested for private drug use.

Recidivism among the previously convicted drug user is an easily predictable statistic because ex-cons get more attention by law enforcement; it’s a never ending cycle, a scarlet letter. Add to that the conditions of parole and probation and it’s a wonder (anyone) especially those in lower economical classes ever leave the revolving door.

The majority of the ones who can afford all of this supervision and supposedly (benefit) from it (the successful one’s) in all likelihood have the support system of family and the credentials of a higher social economical lifestyle to have been successful without so much as a wave of the finger.

Supporters of criminal justice reform continue to spout their protection of the poor and all the while they keep them trapped within the boundaries of class warfare through one kind of experimental program after the other that’s tailor made for their failure.

Those users who have never been arrested, who work and live among us everywhere and I’m going to include those who drink alcohol since it ranks number one on the list of dangerous drugs present very little noticeable danger to society.

The thieves you speak of are now released immediately through government pretrial release at an astronomical cost, but at least they didn’t get caught with drugs. Our criminal justice system has turned into an enormous oxymoron of what is criminal behavior and what is not, who should be in jail and who should not. What a sad joke.

I say scrap parole and probation for drug offenders, once a person has paid their debt to society which should be considerably less than what it is (and going to jail should be payment enough) let them try to live their lives unhindered by big brother whom has no intention nor have they ever of predicating their actions on helping the drug related ex-con merge back into society.

Anonymous said...

The obvious place to start would be to cut down the bloated upper hierarchy, such as the General Counsel's office, the various $100K assistant's, the inflated travel budget, and the upper level double dippers.
TDCJ has the opportunity to act responsibly this time, without the threat to the public of using the parole process as a safety valve, as it did in the late '80's and early 90's.
Another factor would be a much stricter scrutiny of the large pay outs on employment lawsuits, which TDCJ has used as a form of "Golden Parachutes" to rid themselves of the employee's who are standing in the way of the chosen few. There have been several examples of TDCJ blatantly discriminating against employee's, accepting the loss by judgment of hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars, in order to structure the hierarchy to the satisfaction of the ruling clique.

Anonymous said...

One in four former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office.

What's the rate for prisoners? I say turn them loose.

Anonymous said...

Titfortat,
Yes I believe that drug treatment works. The evidence is there and not hard to find. The evidence also shows that the true revolving door is to let them leave once they have "paid their debt".

Anonymous said...

I understand that this is a CJ blog, but isn't anyone asking HOW we have a 15-25 billion dollar shortfall in one biennium? Considering the whole Texas yearly budget is 90 billion, of which the federal portion is like 40 billion or more, that means a defecit of 20% or higher. I don't see how this can happen without some major "wiggling" by leadership in Texas. I also believe that little Ricky is trying to diminish the catastrophic budget cuts that are coming. i keep seeing comments by Straus, Dewhurst and Perry about how this is just like 2003. Well that seems a little hard to accept, seeing as how they just asked for a 2.5% CUT for 2011 after the 5% cut in 2010. That's over 7% that will be cut BEFORE we even start on 2012-2013.

Anonymous said...

TJDO- The LBB says there are 3,000 vacant beds in TDCJ.

rodsmith said...

Man just had to laugh at this one!

"Anonymous said...
One in four former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office.

What's the rate for prisoners? I say turn them loose.

12/09/2010 01:29:00 PM"

The Person could be a church deacon....stick em in a steel cage in the tropics for 4-5 years no judge,,,no laywer,,,no nothing...then finally toss em out with not so much as an "sorry charlie"

And your SUPRISED when they want to KILL YOU and your country?

titfortat said...

to 5:10pm Really?

The recidivism rate is still incredibly high, the (new) programs and studies for diversion (drug courts) haven’t proven anything positive where I can see that have any real effect on drug use in America. A tiny speck of sand on the beach is saved so let’s have a party?

Short of decriminalization the best we can hope for is to diminish the punishment for non-violent crime that we have created along with a black market that rivals wall street, is responsible for an incomprehensible (real war) across our southern boarder that’s killing thousands of innocents over money to feed our ever growing black market, and increasingly locks up our welfare class to the extent that our jails are so overcrowded that we are releasing thieves with a pat on the back.

Our answer is to try and divert the more affluent so that they don’t get a scarlet letter? (really?) Well I guess that’s worth having a party for those who can afford it.

The treatment we need here shouldn’t be a dose of court ordered requirements to save a few privileged skins (which is what it is), it should be a complete psycho-exam for lawmakers.

A Texas PO said...

As a state, we need to strengthen both probation and parole, ensuring that whatever problems led to criminal behavior, whether substance abuse, poor choices, lack of skills, etc., are addressed. Sure, probation is much more expensive for the offender than parole, but they actually can learn something (if they choose to). Prisons have been proven time and time again not to be a deterrent to crime. We have the room in the budget to cut beds, close units and divert funding to probation and increase the number of parole officers. I agree that some diversion programs are not effective at reducing a significant number of reincarceration, but that in no way means that all of these programs are garbage. TDCJ has failed to monitor programs and evaluate their outcomes on a regular basis, which allows unsuccessful programs to continue, and that practice needs to stop. We in probation and parole can do a lot to help offenders get back on the right track. I would love to see the state take a larger share of the financial burden off of the shoulders of offenders (last stat I saw placed the offender's share of probation costs between 60 an 70%) which follows the argument that the less fortunate are harmed by the system. I agree. But there is money out there to pay for programs for those who need the assistance and officers/judges/attorneys have discretion on finanicial obligations of offenders. We need an all around change. My fear is that Huntsville won't listen and will continue to march in lock-step with the current state leadership and keep the system as large as it is. As Don said, I'll believe it when I see it.

Anonymous said...

Our Pimp Culture Celebrates the Rape of Girls

Last weekend P. Diddy and Snoop Dogg were honored at the Players Ball, an annual celebration of pimp culture—but Malika Saada Saar says the event just promotes the degradation and abuse of young girls.

Let’s be clear, I grew up loving hip hop. I donned the hip hop attire and dreamed of an alternate life as a girl tagger.

Now, my love for those old days of hip hop has long been toppled by a gangsta culture that glamorizes the exploitation and rape of women and girls. I can’t love hip hop anymore when I hear lyrics that revel in the selling of girls’ bodies. And I can’t love hip hop anymore when the pimp lifestyle is celebrated without any regard to what it really is—a modern form of sex slavery.

Last weekend, the Players Ball—a yearly celebration of players and the pimp lifestyle—honored P. Diddy with a Lifetime Achievement Award and Snoop Dogg for being the “Hardest Working Player”. According to Serious Pimp Founder Damian Kutzner’s quote in The Boom Box, Snoop Dogg invited “all of Hollywood's elite to party with Bishop Don Magic Juan on his birthday and celebrate the Serious Pimp swagger, attitude and lifestyle." Indeed, among the other awards handed out that night was for “pimp of the year.” Because of the mainstream publicity and the inclusion of well-known celebs like P.Diddy and Snoop, the Players Ball is not some grotesque or aberrant event, but a legitimatized celebration of men who sell girls’ bodies.

Hook Em Horns said...

I still say we are a long, long way from actually closing any prisons. Yes, it makes sense. No, it's not politically plausible for reasons I have mentioned many times.

Anonymous said...

to 02:13PM Whatever problem lead to criminal behavior?

Let’s see, my father’s in prison, my mothers on welfare and I have 5 brothers and sisters. My middle brother 13 got in a fight at school and my mother has to go to court with him next week. My mom’s worried because the last time my brother got in trouble she couldn’t get the money together to pay some kind of fine and she was afraid she might go to jail and we might have to move in with my cousins. The kid he got into a fight with said something ugly about my 12 year old sister who had gotten into a fight with his sister off of school property 3 days ago. My mother has me playing basketball at the community civic center because she’s hoping it will help keep me off the street as is the case with most 14 year old boys in the neighborhood.
Her car broke down last week and she asked my aunt if she would pick me up and take me. My other two sisters have dental appointments tomorrow and if my mom doesn’t get them there on time the dentist office can’t schedule them again until next month, my mom said something about the damn gold card whatever that means. She’s afraid to ask my aunt if she can borrow her car because her license is suspended over some kind of surcharge. My mom seems really stressed out about a lot of things but my oldest brother who is 18 told her not to worry that he would have enough money to help her get the car fixed in a day or two. He and his girlfriend just had a baby and they live in the third bedroom now. It’s kind of crowded but me and two of my sisters get the couch and mom sleeps on the floor in the living room with us, it’s pretty cool because we get to stay up late and watch TV when the cables working, it’s not working right now but my older brother said he’s getting that turned on soon too. He had to quit his job at the sandwich shop because he said he could make a lot more money working with my cousin, they sell stuff now, he said if his probation officer finds out he’s going to be in trouble but if he can’t pay his probation officer next week he’s in even more trouble. He said he has quit doing drugs because he has to for a while, him and my mom got into a big fight about it three days ago but now moms worried that he will go to jail if he can’t make some money plus he said he would pay the past due light bill. Mom’s new boyfriend came over and brought some beer so hopefully mom will stop worrying about everything tonight.

For Christmas I’m praying that somehow the state can find extra money for the probation officers and parole officers because maybe they can teach my brother something and get him on the right track.