Tuesday, March 05, 2013

'The case for independent oversight of Texas' prison system'

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition issued a press release today in support of three bills establishing independent oversight and accountability for TDCJ's facilities and treatment of prisoners. They recommend that the Legislature:
(1) Support H.B. 877 by Representative Alma Allen, which will develop an independent body tasked with comprehensive oversight of all TDCJ correctional facilities; that committee will conduct regular facility inspections and compile comprehensive reports outlining the results of those inspections, as well as providing any recommendations concerning policy changes or other strategies that could improve the conditions or operations of Texas’ correctional facilities. 
(2) Support H.B. 968 by Representative Sylvester Turner, which calls for TDCJ to annually compile a comprehensive report clarifying the number of grievances filed and appealed at each unit, information about the ultimate resolution of such grievances, needed resources at the unit level and across units that will enable facilities to effectively mitigate problems, and any identified patterns of commonly recurring problems. 
(3) Support H.B. 1543 by Representative Alma Allen, which allows the current Independent Ombudsman for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to visit with youth who have been sent to adult secure facilities.
See their new, related report, "The Case for Independent Oversight of Texas’ Prison System: Pursuing Accountability, Efficiency, and Transparency" (pdf).

MORE: From the Texas Tribune.

12 comments:

Force Majeure said...

Fraud, waste and abuse--I thought we were supposed to be ELIMINATING those, not creating more!

HB 677 and 968 seem purely wasteful, creating bodies to investigate problems that do not exist--or if there is evidence that such problems DO exist, there are already national bodies such as the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) and American Corrections Association (ACA) that can do the work in a higher quality fashion. We have plenty of duplication of services in corrections now, why create more?

HG 1543 seems simple enough but probably is not needed either.

Anonymous said...

The link to the report in pdf doesn't work..

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sorry bout that, 3:45 - fixed the link.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ already has an Inspector General that is tasked to be the independent investigating unit

Anonymous said...

The inspector general is NOT independent of TDCJ - they are employees of it.

Stephan White said...

current Independent Ombudsman for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to visit with youth who have been sent to adult secure facilities.

Media Monitoring

PAPA said...

what is going on no matter how many different entities, is NOT working, too much cover up , surely there is some way that the administration can get the I60s, Use of Force, Medical issue notices without it going through the guards hands, when you have guards wives writing in blogs that her husband brings home at night a breifcase full of complaints and goes through them picking which one he is going to allow to go through and puts the others in their home trash can, YES, there is a problem and the last people to review a case is the attorney generals at the units, that is a big big laugh because they are all in the same bed, then the guards threatening the medical people harm or their job if they treat such and such Inmate ( medicals issues not resolved end up costing TaxPaying Citizens thousands of dollars instead of a few) so YES an outside source needs to be developed,like the Inmates being able to have access to the forms for complaints to use without having to ask a guard to give them one which instantly creates a problem for the Inmate, there needs to be a central mailing center that those things can go to without guards handling them and what about those in Solitary Confinement trying to get a complaint out,if all the complaints are covered up with the guards then no one knows there is a problem ... years ago use to be a Warden who sat outside when Inmates were going to Chow Hall with a pad and pencil if anyone had a problem they could tell him and he made a note and checked out, that was the cadillac unit at snyder until he was gone and had the lowest rate of issues/problems - so it would be great if they had that type of employees hanging around earning their keep instead of being the problem

jarenaud said...

There are three entities with "oversight" on TDCJ - the Texas Criminal Justice Board, the Ombudsman, and the OIG. The Ombudsman reports to Mr. Livingston, the executive director for TDCJ; the OIG reports to the Board, and the threshold for their involvement is acts that involve criminal matters. There is no oversight from an agency that is not related to a criminal justice agency. The grievance system is manned by staff that reports to unit administrators. There were over 150,000 grievances filed in 2012; over 32,000 went to Step II. Nine thousand of them were about facility operations. And yet, in conversation with officials in TDCJ, they do not have a way to collect data as to the merit or substance of grievances that the Central Grievance Committee found to not be corrected on the unit level, therefore no way for administrators to correct those problems. And if you think the ACA provides true oversight to any prison in the country, you are deluded. They telegraph their visits; have no enforcement power, no regulatory power, and speak to no one when they visit units but administrators. The prison system costs Texas taxpayers more than 3 billion dollars; you really don't want to know if some of that is being wasted?

Phillip Baker said...

Sorry, Force, but the need for oversight is glaringly clear. Does anyone seriously believe the current arrangement is working? Guards DO pick and choose which grievances to allow through, and the act of filing one puts guards on notice for retaliation. Guards already have far, far too much say in whether an inmate gets medical attention. Of course, the medical system itself is riddled with abuse, systemic problems, anda culture of hostility to inmates. As to the OIG, talk about the fox guarding the henhouse! A lot of good could come of having access to grievances filed and their disposition. I'd hazard a guess that very, very few are found favorable to the inmate. It's largely just window dressing, a sham to satisfy law that requires a way for inmates to seek redress. Not working.

An independent oversight agency does not automatically mean waste and fraud, nor abuse (Those standard dire warnings that get thrown out EVERY time somebody proposes change. Eliminate the sham programs in place now and use that money for the new agency. But require outside auditing, to make sure TDCJ, etc don't find ways around it. God knows our prisons do not like outsiders knowing what goes on behind those walls. There is a pervasive culture of arrogance of power throughout TDCJ which accounts for most of the problems.

Crain Watcher said...

The grievance system on the Crain Unit is broken plain and simple. The guards do throw away grievances. Does anyone in their right mind thin a guard would turn in a grievance against them? The OIG and Ombudsman just reports what the unit tells them to report and most of those employees write at an elementary school level. There are guards who break the law and commit felonies at these women expense. This is where I am confused? These women have committed felonies and are in prison for them. The guards commit felonies at their expenses, like having sex with them against their will, falsify statements to move them to solitary confinement and then they are not charged with these crimes but are allowed to resign, or maybe fired if it is something the people in charge do not want to see go public. These women were not given any of these options in court.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should do a story on the human rights abuses on the Crain Unit. The lies and cover up of violating the human rights of these women. Investigate the officers who COERCE and threaten the inmates with major case write-ups that will prevent them from making parole, if they do not have sex with them. The cover-up and lies by the people running this unit to hide this crime of forcible rape. Investigate why these women end up in solitary confinement unable to contact anyone to help them while the officers continue to roam the prison look for their next victims. Investigate how officers can file false statements against inmates and lock them away in solitary confinement as retaliation against them for trying to file Offender Protection Investigations or Officer Complaints. Investigate officers who threaten to physically injury inmates with force and then lock them up in solitary confinement so they cannot contact anyone for help. Go to visitation if you do not believe and watch the officers treat the inmates inhumanly not only in front of their visitors but watch how disrespectful they will threat you just for visiting someone on this unit. I guess this can be expected from people who trap and kill feral cats at this prison. What is confusing is how polite society protests the rights of these cats but will stand by while officers threaten, coerce, and file write-ups that stops these women from making parole, in exchange for sex and just stand by and not demand an outside investigation of this concentration camp. Go to visitation and watch some pint size dictator want to be treating the inmates and their visitors like sub-humans. They seemed to forget the visitors tax dollars pay their salaries and think the visitors are scum. I got to witness several officers down there this weekend that would have fit in quite well with the SS Waffen running the concentration camps for the Nazis. You would have thought the person in charge down there two weekends ago was a Gestapo officer left over from World War two. Investigate as to why they hire officers that have these character defects, who commit domestic violence crimes at home, who get caught with child pornography, arrested for sexual assaults against children, and then try to turn around and cover up human rights violations they commit against the woman inmates. What were they thinking or expecting when they hired people like this. I am smart enough to believe if an officer will physical beat their family members at home, then they will certainly believe no one will do anything if they physically and emotionally abuse an inmate in the job. Maybe someone in the media should investigate this because it is evident that the elected officials of this state and the people in charge of TDCJ in Austin do not have the stomach for it. A story of people in prison stealing unemployment benefits is what our polite society would rather hear about than some poor inmate being forced to have sex with prison employees which is defined as raped by federal and state laws. I guess that makes a much better story. One day the truth will come out about this god awful prison and when it does everyone with knowledge about these crimes should all be prosecuted to the fullest of the law. I wonder if the current group of officers guilty of this will be charged this time with felony crimes and placed on sex registry’s for the rest of their lives or will they be allowed to simple resign and receive probation like the last group was allowed to do back in 2009. The slave labor issue on this unit is another whole story. Even Russia pays the women inmates that are forced to work in a prison garment factory. In Gatesville they are forced to do it for free. Even Russia has a more human form of slavery, well you cannot call what they do in Russia slavery because the inmates are paid, I, believe $32 dollars a month. We can sleep well knowing that only in Texas do will still have forms of slavery, overseers, and masters all employed by TDCJ and approved by the elected officials.

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