Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Glimpses from the House Corrections Committee

I turned on for a moment today's House Corrections Committee meeting (UPDATE: see the archived broadcast here) and heard these tidbits:

Is Project Rio helping ex-offenders get state jobs?
State Rep. Jerry Madden asked somebody from TDCJ how Project Rio, Texas' main job assistance program for ex-prisoners, was working. He was perfunctorily told it was "working well." Madden followed up by saying he'd spoken to folks from the Department of Transportation who told him they'd like to hire ex-prisoners but had never heard of Project Rio. "Oh really!" was the startled response. Chairman McReynolds smoothed over the awkward moment, which was met by laughter and a colleague telling Madden he was being "controversial," quickly moving onto TDCJ healthcare topics.

Number of inmates growing who will never leave infirmary beds.
Fifty percent of UTMB inmates have chronic illnesses, including physical and mental health problems. There is a 0-4 rating with zero meaning healthy and 4 meaning they spend much or all their time in an infirmary bed. The percentage of those rated zero is 50-52%. Last year, TDCJ went from 50 to 60% of category 4 offenders who will never leave those beds. As a result, infirmary beds are growing scarce.

A doctor complained that physicians submit applications for medical parole but most are denied. Some of these people, he said, one doesn't need to be a parole specialist or medical expert to see that "their ability to commit a crime is zero."

The committee was also told that TDCJ averages 2,400 HIV diagnosed inmates, 1,800 of them who receive medication. A large number of them (600 ) are "co-located at the Stiles unit." Collectively they account for more than 40% of TDCJ pharmaceutical costs. (Just to give credit where it's due, the activist group ACT-UP has been trying to draw attention to that fact for many years.)

The Tech sector handles 22% of inmates. Sicker inmates are housed in the UTMB sector to be closer to the hospital in Galveston and to take advantage of price reductions given by the feds to hospitals treating indigents (Tech doesn't have one).

Also, given current growth rates, TDCJ will outgrow its capacity to care for dialysis patients within a couple of years. Fifty percent of healthcare costs get spent on the seventeen percent of TDCJ inmates who are 50 and older. The number of inmates fifty and older is growing at a 16% per year rate, the committee was told, even though overall inmate growth has leveled off. These offenders are much more expensive to treat than their younger, healthier counterparts.


Anonymous said...

I signed up for Project RIO and after the paper work was done I was told "good luck" and that was the end of the help.

Anonymous said...

same goes for my son; the project is a joke! Wonder who is profiting off those funds??

Stop the Madness... said...

Same for my kiddo. Coincidentally, I'm going through his file now writing yet another letter for the parole board. I just ran across the letter I received from Project RIO requesting information on my son. The letter is from November of 08. I provided the information within a week of having received their letter. We've heard nothing else from the Project RIO Workforce Specialist at the Holliday Transfer Unit. Is this the bang for the taxpayers buck? Are we being mislead to believing our sons will come out with jobs waiting for them?

And maybe a tad off subject, my kiddo is in prison for techincal violations of probation (ie $$$) and nothing to do with his offense. (Thanks WilCo) If my son comes out on parole,the vicious cycle ($$$) will start all over again because parole in Wilco is a complete duplicate of the probation nightmares. In this job market, a 26 year old who just served an 8 year sentence WILL have problems findng work.

Red Leatherman said...

Project Rio seems to be nothing more than a extension of Texas workforce and most people can do better than Texas workforce at getting a job on their own.
But it's there. and tax credits are worth mentioning to a prospective employer irregardless of weather or not a person uses Texas workforce/Project Rio.

@ stop the madness:
Parole officers work to keep people out when compared to probation officers that work to get people in.
You son will likely have a much better chance at succeeding on parole.

sunray's wench said...

TDCJ does nothing to improve the health of the inmates it houses. It receives often very sick individuals (health-wise) and then only fire-fights the situation. There are no structured exercise programmes in TDCJ, the housing and food conditions do not help the situation, and then you have to add the mental health issues suffered by a large number of inmates.

Really there is little point in complaining about the numbers of inmates in medical beds unless TDCJ is willing to put a little effort into healthy-living programmes.

But for those who are too sick to leave their beds, you have to question the BPP members as to exactly why they feel the inmate should not be released. If the family is there to take care of them, then there is no reason why someone who cannot leave their bed or who is so frail or so mentally ill that they would in any other circumstance be in a care home, could not be medically paroled.

Older inmates, many of whom have been incarcerated for over 10 years, also need to be looked at more favourably by the BPP.

Gadfly said...

Yeah, the federal prison system just dumps inmates like this on the street on the ground that Medicaid, or Medicare if the inmates are that old, are cheaper than the federal prison system.

Of course, the flip side is that a lifer or near-lifer normally has no family that has stayed in touch with him and no friends outside prison walls.

charles said...

Voltaire says....

Forget Project RIO; it is a scam run by slick white boys in dark smoky rooms to suck-up state, and if they can get them, federal funds too.

scott said...

When will a movement for some pragmatism in sentencing come? We have these insanely long sentences with no consideration of the likelihood of recidivism.

Of course the parole system seems to be a bit of a lottery. It seems some may get a long sentence substantially shortened while others languish in jail.

Thomas Hobbes said...

I lost any respect for Project Rio some years ago when I worked as a parole officer. The scam at that time was to claim credit for parolees who found employment through Project Rio, as well as parolees who found work on their own. Madden may be on the right track. You can say something "works well," but do the numbers bear out the claim? Surely such a long-running program has performance goals and stats that demonstrate the program's actual performance? . . . Right?