Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Texas corrections budget at second glance

Following up on this morning's missive, I've had a chance now to skim the criminal justice portions of the budget (large pdf) proposed in the Texas House, and though I don't feel like I've completely wrapped my head around all I've seen there, I thought I'd identify a few high and lowlights that jumped out at me related to prisons, jails, and community supervision. (Here's a large pdf file comparing the last biennial budget to that proposed in HB 1 - see the Legislative Budget Board for more detail.)

Cuts to juvie probation
For starters, though the Sunset Commission recommended merging the Texas Youth Commission with the Juvenile Probation Commission and shifting more youth to community supervision, the base budget actually slashes funding for juvenile probation overall by 13.5%, with most of the cuts concentrated in funding for progressive sanctions and "community corrections services." The Youth Commission would close three facilities under the proposed budget, but shifting more youth to counties implies they'll need more resources to deal with them, not less.

Funding for Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (for students with disciplinary problems in public schools) will be cut from $79 to $59 per day.

Treatment, diversion take big hits at TDCJ
The Department of Criminal Justice has been asked to cut nearly $700 million from adult corrections, almost all of it in community supervision programming: Basic probation funding would be cut nearly 25%, while funds for diversion programming would decline 21%. "Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration" took one of the biggest proportional hits, at a 90%+ reduction. Funding for special needs offenders would decline around 46%. Further, post-secondary and vocational training in prison as well as Project RIO, which is aimed at preparing ex-offenders for employment, would all be zeroed out under the proposed budget.

Overall, a great deal of  the 2007 probation programming credited nationally with reducing Texas' prison population is simply deleted from this first draft of the budget. For reasons frequently discussed on this blog, it's unwise and unworkable to make such deep cuts in probation without the prison population expanding significantly in the near term.

No more TDCJ pay hikes
Central administration at TDCJ will take an 11% cut, but the executive director and the chair of the Board of Pardons and Paroles will get to keep raises they received in 2010 (2.6% and 10%, respectively). Overall, TDCJ will see a pay freeze: "The Department of Criminal Justice shall not pay salary adjustments related to the career ladder in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The individual rate of compensation for ... employees in the career ladder system shall not exceed the rate of compensation for that individual at the end of fiscal year 2011."

Untenable cuts to medical care
The budget proposes a more than 18% cut in medical care at frontline TDCJ units, despite the fact that the amount budgeted last biennium for health care was a whopping $61 million short of actual costs. Psychiatric care in prisons and pharmacy expenses would both be cut about 14%. In-prison substance abuse treatment would be slashed. Overall, medical costs per offender day in the budget would decline from $7.67 in 2011 to $5.84 in 2013 - a 24% decrease which will challenge the agency to a) provide constitutional levels of healthcare and b) maintain a price point that will keep UTMB providing services. They've threatened to cancel the contract if the state won't increase compensation for inmate healthcare.

A bizarre contradiction on parole
There's a flat-out bizarre element to the Board of Pardons and Paroles' budget given that HB1 would shutter the Central Unit and eliminate more than 1,500 private prison beds: Cuts to the parole board would cause the agency to process more than 6,000 fewer parole cases each year, which would immediately boost the prison population (unless front-end diversion programming, which is also slated for cuts, were expanded instead). Parole officer caseloads would shoot up from 62 per PO to 87, according to the proposed budget. Whoever wrote this section doesn't understand: It's simply not possible to let out fewer people each year, keep the same number coming in, and cut the overall number of prison beds. Something's got to give.

More backed up blue warrants
County sheriffs concerned about the expense from housing offenders held on "blue warrants" for alleged parole violations will be dismayed to learn of a proposed 15% cut in funds for processing parole revocations, a cut which will pass on extra incarceration expenses to counties.

Reduce inefficiencies in parole process
One new and welcome element in the budget is the requirement of a study to
evaluate and identify process inefficiencies related to parole review and offender release that is contingent upon successful completion of an assigned rehabilitation program. A report including the results of the study shall be submitted to the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor's Office not later than January 1, 2012. The report shall include recommendations and strategies to better align parole votes, program start dates, and offender releases.

Not later than December 1, 2012, the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Department of Criminal Justice shall submit to the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor's Office an update to include actions, if any, implemented since the initial report. The update shall include savings associated with any actions taken to reduce delays in releasing paroled offenders who have completed an assigned rehabilitation program.
That said, in the context of the rest of the budget this strikes me as unrealistic. How can parole be made more "efficient" while fewer cases are processed for release, parole officer caseloads grow, and funds for revocation hearings are slashed? Even if they find efficiencies, there seemingly won't be enough warm bodies available to implement the recommendations.

Counties to pay jail inspectors
The Commission on Jail Standards will stop using general appropriation funds to inspect county jails and begin charging fees to counties to pay for the service.

RELATED: Corrections budget cuts concentrated in community supervision, set TDCJ up to fail


Hook Em Horns said...

They built this prison system Grits and the have NO INTENTION of scuttling any of it.

Anonymous said...

Having worked both sides of the criminal justice system (Medical contract x 15 yrs and got rif'd last year) and now the prison side and according to budget proposal my dept would be completely closed down, its not looking good for state jobs. Do these law makers realize that all the people who get laid off still get money from "guess where" - Texas Unemployment! Ever thought about asking people to take a cut and if they refuse - then get rid of them? I need a job like everyone else. But, I would rather take a major pay cut then not have any income at all. And lets see...proposal is to NOT TOUCH THE RAINY DAY FUND! The lawmakers need to take a huge cut in pay too. I didn't see anything about them in the budget cuts.

David RD said...

This looks like Ms. Owens, her husband - Ed (2nd in command at TDC, and the Director wrote this BS protect their power, territory, and most important - their big raises!! Of course, let all the other employees, parole officers, and all the "lower levels" - "just let them eat cake". I absolutely believe they intentionally are setting this entire system up for success - at least their style of success. Keep growing our prison population, destroying peoples and their families lives, and continue to "thumb their noses" at Constitutional Rights or inmates - all in the name of building more prisons and keeping open the already horribly inefficient ones we now have. Destroy the TYC and continue helping create many more customers for their ever growing "empire of prisons", make parole and probation a fail in every aspect and keep sending these people back into their Stalinist "Gulag" system. Hey I'm all for keeping the mean, murdering, raping, gangster, and pillaging freaks in prison - locked away as long as we need to. But, the facts of the makeup of our current VERY LARGE prison population is quite different. Hookers in prison? Low level, non violent, and mentally ill drug and alcohol abusers in prison?? I believe I read that these types constitute roughly 37 to 40% of the current inmate population? At $35 to $40 daily? WOW!!!

Man, I truly WOULD LIKE TO KNOW just what is being kept around in this budget besides plenty of prisons? Plenty of really dumbass other crap agency heads and politicians love to keep around for themselves. Certainly not education? But, on that respect they do need to create more uneducated fools for voters - to keep voting them back into office. Also, looks like agency Directors and appointees of Mr. Perry will be getting and keeping large raises?

Time to read the entire proposed budget myself to see what other BS is in it!!

Texas Maverick said...

Just finished reading the budget and the LBB summary. Summary makes some good suggestions. Budget-my blood pressure is sky rocketing. How can you reduce the nbr of paroles considered from 92,000 to 79,700? What do you tell the inmates who have served time, done what is asked? Oh, sorry, Ms. Owens salary just doesn't give her enough to compensate for the work load? Or how about the parole officers who will now have an additional 20 people to supervise. I didn't see a 10% raise for that workload change. In fact I didn't see a raise at all. Need to take a look at the office of the Gov. and see if we can find any extras to cut. Fat chance. My rep is going to get an ear full.

Anonymous said...

for Grits What three facilities from Texas Youth Commision will close and when do you think this will happen

Anonymous said...

Counties will pay for jail inspections? Bye Bye TCJS

Anonymous said...

Counties will raise hell about the blue warrants & paying for inspections. They'll try to make up for it by screwing the defendants out of adequate representation, which will result in an increase in jail population. Which will eventually result in more blue warrants and . . .

Anonymous said...

visibly the people making these decisions and rewriting/vamping the budget have no idea what the dynamics are of how any of these agencies function alone and work together. even when they readjusted the 'type' of youth going to tyc in 2007 and claimed the state funds would be filtered to the counties instead, the overabundance of youth now at the county level are not getting served and those that are.. are having to wait, such as six months for residential programs. if they money is now there, they aren't getting anything done with it.

Jim Stott said...

Because the reforms of 2001 to the present are now and have been working to reduce crime and the commitment of offenders to ID, those same reforms are proposed to be disproportionately scaled back so that we once again have a good chance to fill those prison beds. I only hope that the session yields a lot more rational thought than what went into the preparation of this proposal. Probation officers across the state have worked their tails off to use the alternatives to prison we have been given and try to keep the prison population manageable. This proposal will surely increase the commitments to ID and threaten public safety.

Anonymous said...

Just read the bill, we freeze JCO salaries and give CO Administrators a raise, there has to be a law against this.
Luckily I have my time in so my salary can freeze where it is at, but for all those who have not topped out on the career ladder, good luck over the next two years. I will most likely work 12 hour shifts for the next two years.

Anonymous said...


ref to counties paying for TCJS inspections

Is there going to be a charge for all inspections or just for reinspections after a jail has failed inspection and needs a reinspection before being considered in compliance?

How much are they charging?

sunray's wench said...

Re the BPP, "The update shall include savings associated with any actions taken to reduce delays in releasing paroled offenders who have completed an assigned rehabilitation program."

This is the bit that makes it obvious who is running the show at the moment. The BPP will say that the removal of the majority (all?) rehabilitation programmes in TDCJ counts as the BPP reducing the cost to the state. If the programmes don't exist, the BPP cant contribute to high costs by making inmate completion of those programmes part of the parole release conditions. But don't anyone go getting their hopes up that this will mean inmates being paroled any earlier or quicker - it will almost certainly mean that the BPP will deny even more inmates who could benefit from parole (not to mention the state benefitting from them being paroled too) by saying that without the programmes, the inmates are not fit to be released or that they have become institutionalised. The BPP can work this both ways and still come out with their jobs and sallaries intact.

I'd be very surprised if Rissie or Ed don't enter the next Dancing with the Stars, with all the soft shoe shuffling they do.

Do you know that inmates can (and are regularly) denied parole because of one or more of the following:
*Being too institutionalised
*Not sufficiently adjusting to the system (not institutionalised enough)
*Nature of offence (regardless of the law that says the crime committed does have a parole possibility attached to the sentence)
*Insufficient time served (regardless of the law that says that inmate is eligible for parole at that point)

Parole has nothing to do with how well an inmate has progressed with education or simply that they have accepted that what they did was wrong and have tried to do their time as best they can without getting them or anyone else hurt. It has everything to do with TDCJ and the BPP keeping things exactly as is for as long as possible.

Anonymous said...

Right on 03:16:00PM you hit the nail on the head !
One more thing, there are amputees and blind prisoners who could parole out on MRIS ( medical parole) but are being held because they are sex offenders. Come on now Ms. Owens ! Sure the law says they have to be in a vegetative state ( please explain"vegetative"). It is still the BPP who has the final say-so.
Ms. Owens, what can a blind amputee, yes there are some of those too, do to anyone? Do you taxpayers know how much these individuals cost you ????
Someone please yank the legislators chains and get this law changed ! Mr. Governor, what is this BPP doing for you to be so happy with them ? Keeping the public safe is not the result of their job, on the contrary.

Anonymous said...


where are you getting your information on counties paying for processing blue warramts and TCJS charging for inspections?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:14, they're reducing the funds to hold revocation hearings by 15%, which means the blue warrants sit in jail longer before their revocation hearings. That's an inference by me, not something that's explicitly stated in the budget, but I believe it's true.

On TCJS paying for inspections, in the actual (enormous) HB 1 itself, p. 606 of the pdf, it states:

"Contingency Appropriation: Inspection Fees. In addition to the amounts appropriated above, and contingent upon the enactment of legislation by the Eighty-second Legislature, Regular Session, relating to the modification of Government Code, Section 511.0091, the Commission on Jail Standards is appropriated in Strategy A.1.1, Inspection and Enforcement, fees collected for the inspection and re-inspection of county jails and privately operated municipal jails (estimated to be $288,200 in fiscal year 2012 and $288,200 in fiscal year 2013)."

No detail on the size of the inspection fees. You probably can't assume you just take the total and divide by 245 (the number of total annual inspections). It's likely the inspection process for larger jails is more expensive and I wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of sliding scale, but as said in the quote that would be decided in legislation (yet to be filed, to my knowledge) that would implement this suggestion in statute.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the last post Grits. Very helpful info.

Brenda H. Collier, J.D. said...

We have to treat the most likely cause of imprisonment--drugs and alcohol related offense, like the societal illness it is and pour money into that area NOT the stupd "drug war" which, like the Vietnam war was a travesty and is UNWINNABLE because it aims the weapon in the wrong direction. Let's not forget that the largest employer in the state of Texas is the so-called "criminal justice" system. Stop putting people into prisons and get treatment going. And whoever thinks the prisons acutally provide ANY health care should talk to a former client of mine who was a head nurse whistleblower at a prison in Waco. Prisoners who are diabetic can't even get insulin. Its pathetic and we should be ashamed. This is a great blog that I have posted to before. One man trying to shed some light on the darkest side of Texans.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your concise analysis of the pending legislation.
A question remains: Did the proposals include any attempt to thwart, cut,or re-direct the Victim's Compensation Fund?
Another issue of concern is the duplicative funding of the TDCJ General Counsel's office and the BPP General Counsel's staff. It would seem that this could be a area of reduction and consolidation, as it was prior to 1991. Another concept would be to designate specific A.G.'s as the counsel for these agency's; and eliminate the slots that currently exist. This could be especially effective in light of the current staffing, where one of the offices is stocked with RUIZ refuse,including double-dippers, and the other is run by the attorney who freed Kenneth McDuff.

Elmas Mallo-Texas's Last Hero said...

Having started my career in 1978, jumped ship, and return years ago, I now see a moment in time when Texas needs a HERO now more than ever before.
Instead of doing what truly needs to be done with an increase to certain unavoidable taxes because 1200 new faces hit Texas every day, the State is going to try and bandaid itself into a mockery of good citizen will for votes.
Texas has got to wake up and instead of slapping itself on the back for no new taxes, they need to be kickin each other in the butt until they do increase taxes to keep Texas from being the Nation's Poorest little joke outside of Washington. Governor Perry don't make poorhousing Texas your child's play at the Presidency, cause this proud State must be financially secure and a place where Texans can work for the State without fear of losing their jobs....and if you are not going to use the rainy day fun, then why in the hell did Texas create it? Or is there a money mystery there too?

David RD said...

If anyone happened to hear either inaugural speech from our State's two top anointed office holders...ya know one of then RENTS a $10000 a month home for a few years - both of them harkened back to the days of "The Good War"...WWII I assume....ya know those days when American's and Texas HAD TO SACRIFICE TO THE EXTREME during hard times. These two "dips" implied that once again Texas should be willing to go through extreme sacrifice during this terrible economic time!! BUT, we won't let our fellow underprivileged Texan...ya know, those sick people, those elderly people, the ones out of work, the ones downtrodden and desperate - we will take care of them as Texans have always done...BUT, just not at the expense of the taxpayer or of our corporate friends!! DID EVERYONE GET THAT??? So, the top doggies at DPS, TDC, BPP, TYC, and who know what other agencies give themselves HUGE FAT RAISES while leaving their the thousands of minions underneath them with nothing or even less - pay reductions and layoffs? DOES IT MAKE ANY SENSE?? And to boot, not continuing the little progress the State HAS made in diversion and rehabilitation that has helped bring the prison population down and ultimately make our society better. These people just seem to have a really total and unrealistic "DISCONNECT" with things??? They've literally got their big fat power driven egotistical HEADS up their own ASSES!!! Or maybe just up Rick Perry's ASS!!!

Anonymous said...

Lets put ol' Rick's rent money, lawn and pool upkeep, wine and mags and other frivolous expenditures in the "Rainy Day Fund"

Anonymous said...

Rick is looking out for Texans. Support Rick and go Ricky!

David RD said...

Anonymous 1/23/2011 04:19:00 PM said: "Rick is looking out for Texas"...are you being facetious or making a real big funny? If you're not then you obviously haven't been paying attention to the last 3 terms of this man and his "rise to power". Or, maybe you're just stupidly naive?? Ugh, think I'm gonna puke or something!!! Mr. "Good Hair" Rick looking out for Texas?? Yeah, in your dreams buddy!! Rick is out for Rick! His political ambitions are HUGE! His need and greed for total control and power are HUGE! This man is out for THIS MAN - RICK PERRY and only Rick Perry. He awards and benefits his friends only because of what they can bring him - $$$$, influence, and power...thus he rewards them with high level appointments - as long as they do his bidding - as long as they contribute to his "megalomanical" psychological disorder!! The man need to be hospitalized for his condition....maybe in MHMR State Hospital...the way underfunded State mental health facility.