Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Initial thoughts on draft criminal justice budgets: Fables from La-la land

Let's take a first-cut look at implications for the criminal justice system in the Texas House and Senate draft budgets released yesterday amidst promises of tax cuts from state officials. (Go here for links to both budgets; the criminal justice/public safety budgets are in Article V.)

First things first, both the House and Senate budgets failed to restore funding cut last session from the prison healthcare budget, despite the fact that the Legislative Budget Board had to agree to additional funding mid-biennium in order to keep the UT Medical Branch in Galveston as their main provider. Both budgeted not only less than the requested amount but lower than the 2013 levels set by the 83rd Legislature for hospital and clinical care, pharmacy, and psychiatric care. That cannot stand at current prison population levels.

Slight cuts were suggested for local probation departments, ignoring TDCJ's request for more funds and probation directors' request to help with rising health insurance costs. Coupled with the suggestion that the state will spend less in 2014 and 2015 to "incarcerate felons" than it did in 2013 - despite rising healthcare and food costs and guard shortages stemming from low pay - these budget figures appear to come straight out of la la land. Both budgets zeroed out TDCJ's line item for facilities maintenance, a suggestion that fails to pass the laugh test. (The agency had budgeted $81 million for maintenance this biennium and requested $97 million for the next one.) Overall, TDCJ would receive roughly $65 million per year less in the next biennium than was budgeted for 2013, a figure that won't be tenable unless something is done to reduce the overall prison population.

The newly formed Texas Juvenile Justice Department would see its budget slashed by about $30 million per year compared to 2013 under both proposed budgets, with the cuts coming from mostly from state-operated secure facilities. The budget substantially reduced the allocation for "basic supervision" by juvenile probation departments, but added the money back in under a new line item titled "Pre- and Post-Adjudication Facilities." Funds for halfway houses and "general rehabilitation treatment" would decline slightly.

Both budgets would slash the Department of Public Safety's budget by around half a billion dollars over the biennium compared to the last one, ignoring recent calls for trooper pay raises. The agency's request for additional crime lab funding to mitigate growing backlogs was also ignored.

The Indigent Defense Commission's request for additional funds to cover unfunded mandates on counties from the 2001 Fair Defense Act was rebuffed in both budgets.

Bottom line: What's been proposed here are not realistic suggestions based on historical costs and caseloads. Grits does believe there are ways to cut public safety and corrections spending, particularly by funding community based diversion programs to offset reductions in much-more expensive incarceration. But these budgets don't reduce spending through smart, strategic thinking but by thoughtlessly hacking at topline numbers without a realistic implementation plan.

Obviously we're at the beginning of the process and budgets at the end of the session will look much different, one would imagine, than these initial proposals. It must be said, however, on the criminal justice front they're not off to an inspiring start.


Anonymous said...

Emerging Technology Fund Account No. 5124
2012 - 139,510,000
2013 - 1,000,000

If you think gov good hair is going to balance this criminal justice budget in a sensible and ethical manner, then you're dumber than you are bald. Look no further than the cronyism from the numbers above, gov good hair is an inept double dipping hypocrite that makes sure his pockets and his friends pockets are lined. He's wasted more tax money on his pathetic travel to be president than he would ever think to spend on helping loser convicts. Do yourself a favor, look up Terrabon out of Houston, good hairs college buddy who went belly up with 2.75 million of tax dollars wasted. Funny how this one example of failure is just a list of many. Get this dipshit out of office ASAP..

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know, 2:27, I'm pretty bald!

That said, I don't think these draft budgets - especially on criminal justice - have a lot to do with Perry. My observation has been that these issues are far down his priority list.

Anonymous said...

30 million per year on the state operated program side means at least two facility closures. While the capacity exists to house the displaced youth it will mean fewer crowded facilities and more cultural decompensation. TJJD has big problems internally at the executive level. Some of the executive team are clueless and will be quite entertaining when they get to play jester in the corrections committee court. The results will be abysmal.

Anonymous said...

I do not see how TJJD could slash anymore funds while Griffiths tells all of the facilities (secure) are safe from closure???

This is not what I am saying but word for word what he is telling all of us. I guess we will find out during the session who is telling us the truth?

Anonymous said...

This legislature is no different than those before! They don't give two hands in a hand basket about community corrections, our insurance costs or the savings involved over the costs of sending someone to prison. All they care about is claiming they save the tax payers money and to hell with anything else! It is no wonder Probation Officers, Directors and other staff members are leaving the field in droves!

A Fed Up Director

Anonymous said...

To answer 8:46 while the executive director might tout non closures the fact remains 30 million per year in budget cuts equals facility closures. A lot of the old finance department has departed and the new finance director is under the illusion that reducing cell phones and travel budgets will bridge the fiscal gap. No way that happens. If the cuts go as deep as suggested here, brace for closures. Everyone should prepare themselves to face the suggestion that the adult system take over the state operated programs as well. You have all seen the misguided accolades for the clements unit. Yes tenured high level staff are leaving whether anyone believes they were productive or not is beside the fact that the departure leaves a void and produces a steep learning curve for their replacements.

Publius Africanus said...

I believe much of the reduction to DPS is from declines in federal pass-thru funds, rather than cuts to state operating funds.

Anonymous said...

So does the budget cuts mean fewer dollars flowing to the county level? If so better keep those facilities open and staffed.

Anonymous said...

they would be across the board cuts but with the focus on keeping kids in their respective communities and re-entry the counties should be fine if not better.

Anonymous said...

you canot keep kids in their communities when you only have 6 and with one possibly closing. If you live in West Texas the closet TJJD facility is Mart (really do not see the logic with your community crap). Lets be honest this concept of keeping youth in their communities started with the Evins facility, damn that has really worked out. If you do not know the history of TYC/TJJD really no need to comment.

DeathBreath said...

What amazes me are the people who continue to vote GOPig because they want to reduce taxes. Most, don't catch on to the fact that their jobs & benefits are on the line.

The GOPigs & TeaTards are at the heart & soul of this budgetary foible. They are in control here. It is their TeaTard mentality that is causing this ordeal. Oink, oink, oink.

Anonymous said...

I think DPS is going to be around 500 or so vacancies midway throughout the year.

With the oilfield booming in much of the state, DPS is dropping troopers like crazy. With the exception of metropolitan areas, every single duty station in the state has a vacancy.

You gotta pay them more. Else all of the good ones leave and all the less than average ones will remain, resulting in more lawsuits, vehicle damages, more replacement equipment that will be used all at the taxpayers expense.

Heck, I'm betting by the end of the year their will be 600 vacancies.

Anonymous said...

Any word on closings???