Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Fewer GEDs, prison industry jobs thanks to TDCJ budget cuts

Coupla news items caught my eye related to budget cuts at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. First, reports Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman, six prison industry factories including a soap factory formerly at the Central Unit in Sugar Land have been closed because of budget cutbacks. Wrote Ward:
The closures are part of a national trend, officials say, as government agencies that run prison industry programs experience budget cuts and government agencies that buy prison-made goods scale back their purchases, also to cope with tighter state budgets.

"The question is how do you keep convicts busy if the plant closes," said Tony Fabelo, an Austin-based criminal justice statistician who tracks criminal justice trends.

"This has implications for prison management, beyond just the closing of a plant here and there."

In Texas, prison officials have always prided themselves on the state's robust prison-industry program. It is among the nation's largest, where convicts make everything ranging from furniture, highway signs and soap to garments, license plates and shoes at 41 plants. But now some officials worry that increasing numbers of idled convicts could lead to new disciplinary and security problems inside Texas' sprawling system of 111 state prisons.
The other closures:
In Beaumont, a metal products plant at the Stiles Unit was shuttered earlier this year and its operations were consolidated with similar plants at the Coffield Unit near Tennessee Colony and the Powledge Unit near Palestine.

A garment plant at the Jester 3 Unit in Richmond was consolidated with a plant at the Eastham Unit north of Huntsville. A shoe plant closed at the Jordan Unit near Pampa had its lines moved to a plant at the Clements Unit in Amarillo that makes blankets.

A wood and furniture plant at the Ellis Unit outside Huntsville was moved to the Lewis Unit in Woodville. And a plant that manufactures stainless-steel fixtures at the Boyd Unit in Teague has been closed and consolidated with a metal plant at the Luther Unit outside Navasota.
Meanwhile, the Huntsville Item has a story on recent budget cuts at TDCJ's Windham School District which informs us that:
As of Thursday, Windham had to eliminate 271 full-time employees, including 157 teachers in addition to adminstrative and support staff. WSD also enforced salary reductions across the board in order to reduce its budget by $17.8 million, or 27 percent, per year of the biennium.

It was another tough blow to the residents of Huntsville and the surounding communities. Another 40 jobs were lost in the area after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice went through a round of layoffs a few months ago.

Windham had to cut jobs at the Eastham, Ellis, Estelle, Goree, Huntsville and Wynne units as the agency’s budgeted figures for 2012 under the regular programs were substantially lower than the estimated expenses for the fiscal year 2011, which led to a reduction in funding. ...
As a result of the teaching cuts, Windham, which provides academic, career and technology training for offenders to help combat recidivism, has also had to eliminate and reduce educational programs, including General Educational Development (GED). Each teaching position was determined to serve 107 students per year, meaning more than 16,700 offenders will be left out of the classrooms in 2012.

GED classes are no longer being offered at the Glossbrenner, Halbert, Havins, Johnston, LeBlance and Sayle substance abuse facilities and at the Duncan Unit. The Central Unit in Sugar Land was recently closed down completely.

“Despite substantial budget reductions, WSD remains committed to providing the best possible programming with allocated funding,” Kiser said.

The GED, as well as other programs, were signifigantly reduced at 19 other units, including Eastham, Goree, Ellis, Byrd and Huntsville. According to WSD’s annual performance report for 2009-10, approximately 77,500 inmates received educational services and 12,464 of the offenders released in 2010 attained a GED and took college classes while incarerated in TDCJ.

Offenders at the units that no longer offer GED courses have limited options as to continuing their education.


Angee said...

I am wondering about the constitutionality of the $100 insurance co-pay? Can inmates who are paid nothing have this additional burden added to their sentence? Families struggle to put a few bucks in an inmates account only to have it taken for medical so the punishment rolls over to include non-inmates.
I don't know what the big picture is supposed to be but taking away education and jobs makes absolutely no sense. Thousands of idle inmates is a forecast for trouble.

Anonymous said...

And well over half of these people being laid off will continue to vote for candidates who vow, "No new taxes." The ripple effect of that inane stance will be felt for many, many years to come.

Audrey said...

I suppose the alternative, more parole releases, doesn't cut cost like removing the services. I guess, the incremental cost of feeding an offender food and having reduced prison guards doesn't compare to using professionals to teach and run prison businesses/factories which teach trade. This is the short term solution which will cost in the future with continued unemployment once released and of course the almighty recidivism. I am not convinced the system is at all interested in reducing its size.

There is a piece missing...what is the cost of having empty/closed down prisons? Does anybody know the extent to which these state prisons receive Federal funds (if any)? In real estate the way to keep making money is to build, build, build. There must be something like that going on in Texas. Maybe its time for correction of the prison market (like the over valued stock market or the over valued real estate market), but instead of letting go of the small time drug users and all those who have been falsely accused and wrongly convicted, they just pull the services. So, when the recovery of our economy comes, we will still be sitting BIG with our prisons.

Anonymous said...

They don't get it. They never will because the ones making the decisions aren't much smarter than the ones they lock up.

The only way to rehabilitate is through EDUCATION.

The Comedian said...

9/06/2011 01:30:00 PM,

Lots of people can't make the connection: Lower taxes = no new public employee jobs + reductions in current ones.

We're still waiting for all the new private sector jobs that were supposed to have been created by Bush's tax cuts. Oh wait, those jobs were created overseas and the tax savings were used for executive salary increases and bonuses, and to buy more corporate jets, additional mansions and politicians!

Anonymous said...

Inmates can be charged a co-pay for medical. The days of inmates getting free medical care are over. A co-pay helps defray the cost. It also helps stop inmates from going on sick call for extremely minor problems that can be handled by the inmate and are trying to get out of work. As for struggling families putting money in inmate accounts,cry to someone else. The inmate should have thought about the 'burden' he is putting his family through when he committed the crime. Sorry for the reality check.

sunray's wench said...

Anon 11.54 ~ I know this is an old post, but I could not let the comment go without correcting you. Inmates did not get FREE medical care before the $100 flat rate medical tax was introduced on inmate families. Inmates had to pay $3 from their accounts (funded in the most part by inmate families) for each visit to medical staff.

Sorry we don't all live in your perfect world.