Thursday, September 06, 2012

Legislators focused on reentry heading into session

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition sent out an email today (see the online version) providing recaps of yesterday's Sunset Advisory Commission decision meeting regarding the Department of Criminal Justice (see Sunset's staff report) and Tuesday's Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing (which Grits covered in some detail), including links to the group's written testimony.  See also a good SA Express-News story on yesterday's Sunset Advisory Commission meeting; here's a notable excerpt:
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission — composed of state lawmakers and public members who periodically review state agencies — recommended changes Wednesday to better coordinate and focus on programs for offenders' re-entry into society.

The first step toward a plan: Write it down.

Sunset commission staff reported that “no written plan exists” nearly three years after lawmakers approved legislation requiring a re-entry plan.

A steering committee convened by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which also includes parole and prison education officials, hasn't yet established clear timelines to create such a plan, staff wrote.
There also is no comprehensive assessment of offender risks and needs, according to the report.

It said case management is fragmented and information sharing is limited among the criminal justice agency, the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Windham School District, which serves the criminal justice system.

Besides calling for a written plan, the commission recommended requiring a system-wide risk and needs assessment for offenders and an individual treatment plan. The recommendations will go to the Legislature, which convenes in regular session in January.
TCJC also provided a link to the new report from TDCJ's Reentry Task Force (pdf), which included this welcome if long overdue bit of news regarding ID cards for prisoners exiting the system: "TDCJ, DSHS and DPS are in the process of finalizing interagency contracts for issuing the state identification card through an electronic process. A pilot program for identification card applications and processing will be operational in Spring, 2013."

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