Thursday, April 16, 2009

House budget would spend $5 billion-plus on corrections without big prison guard raises

Here's LBB's big-picture summary (pdf) of criminal justice funding in the base budget coming out of the House Appropriations Committee to be debated on the floor this week:
• $4.7 billion in All Funds is provided for the incarceration and treatment of adult offenders. This reflects an increase of $80.9 million in General Revenue Funds primarily caused by state approved salary increases in fiscal year 2009; increased funding for correctional security equipment and reentry transitional coordinators; multi-year contract rate increases; increased funding for initiatives provided by the Eightieth Legislature, 2007; vehicle replacements; healthcare equipment replacements; and increased costs for food, overtime, utilities, hazardous duty pay, and adjustments to the corrections officer career ladder in fiscal year 2009. The recommendations include a decrease of $27.6 million in General Revenue Funds for contracted temporary capacity based on January 2009 population projections.

• $401.5 million in All Funds is provided for residential services provided by the Texas Youth Commission. This represents a reduction of $40.9 million in General Revenue Funds primarily caused by an institutional capacity reduction of 1,841 beds; a reduction in contracted capacity based on institutional reductions and January 2009 population projections; efficiency reductions; and one-time appropriations made by the Eightieth Legislature, 2007, for video surveillance equipment and an electronic medical records system. Recommendations for fiscal years 2010-11 include funding for the continued operation of the Victory Field Correctional Academy and the West Texas Regional Facility; two 48-bed state-operated leased facilities; additional specialized treatment; regional community reentry and specialized after-care pilot programs; an automated risk assessment and data sharing system; and radio communication upgrades and replacements.

• $82.1 million in All Funds is provided for border security operations including funding for law enforcement surge operations, Joint Operation and Intelligence Centers, the Border Security Operation Center, a Regional Emergency Operations Center and crime lab in Laredo, upgrades to Texas Task Force II in Dallas, Department of Public Safety personnel and aviation support.
The base budget includes a 5% pay hike for Texas prison guards. Tomorrow will be the real free for all when more than 400 riders (floor amendments) will be considered in what's sure to be an excruciating and grueling session. The Senate version contained more money for both prison diversion programs and guard pay.


sunray's wench said...

New vehicles are sorely neede in TDCJ. But will they actually spend the money if they get it?

Anonymous said...

Federal oversight here we come!!!!!!

Get your check books out this mistake is going to cost us all. The state currently can't staff their prisons in a recession and the people they find to staff them with bring in cell phones to death row inmates.

The Legislature doesn't understand that there are lots of low paying jobs out there and no is going to work in the prisons with the current low wages. 5% over the next two years is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Crisis makes the Legislature go round. Look at CPS, TYC, and now the State MR facilities. They make short term improvements in salaries, infusions of short term funds, and then walk away until the next inevitable crisis that his been cooking on the stove of indifference.

As long as the prisons remain secure and there are no outragous violations of security by inmates or staff (i.e. inmates using cell phones to threaten Senators), the funding for correctional salaries will remain supressed.

In 2012 the Legislature may come up with another 15%, if they think they won't have to tap the Rainy Day Fund. However, considering all the years of no raises or 3% raises for most State employees, that strategy keeps their batting average at about 3-5% for raises.

It's the same idea of waiting to give a guy dying of thirst a drink. Get him thirsty enough and all you have to do is give him a sip of water for him to be grateful! Why waste a gallon, when you can keep him alive and hopeful for a sip? Fortunatly, the guards never consider mass sick call in or other work stopage or slowdown actions that would just lead to riots or worse. They have more ethics and allegiance to the system then that. The Legislature has always taken the position in good financial times, that the State employees were lucky to have a job. Now that the financial times are worse, that sentiment is a lot stronger, unless of course you are a staffer for the legislators. Then they can orchestrate all kinds of interesting procedures to insure that their own staff's are taken care of. Those kinds of actions by Legislators for their own special interest groups makes it very hard for State employees to have faith in State Governments ability to be fair. Unfortunately, this is a very very long Texas tradition. Don't Mess with Texas!

Anonymous said...

...and now some are demanding an end to the overtime that allows TDCJ to staff the prisons at a safe, functional level Correctional facilities serve a vital role, but are not most people's 'employer of choice'. Correctional employees, specifically security staff, have the most day-to-day interaction with offenders and are arguably the greatest influence during an offender's term of incarceration. It is desirable for that influence to come from a 'last resort' type of employee, or should we pay a wage that attracts a prospective employee with loftier goals and a higher skill set. Those of you employed there and those with family members incarcerated already know the answer. To the rest of you-remember 99% of those incarcerated will be released back to your communities someday-who do you want influencing them in the interim-the employee of last resort or a professional correctional officer?

Anonymous said...

Why am I not surprized of the House's not wanting to spend money on the correctional officers' raise
Having worked for TDCJ for 12 years, I expected this. TDCJ ranks 47th in the nation for pay for Corrcetional officers. I will say this, you get what you pay for!

Just a guy said...

First we (in TYC) were told that no overtime would be paid for Aug-Sep unless it exceeded 120hrs and then they would only pay the hours that went over 120. Now we just heard today from our HR dept that there were no plans to pay any overtime in the foreseeable future no matter how much you have. At the moment, we don't even have the option to take our overtime as time off. We have no choice in our overtime. Were forced to work it and they dont have to give us any compensation? How is this even legal?