Sunday, January 18, 2015

Corrections Committee: Expand rehabilitation and education programs at TDCJ

The Texas House Corrections Committee this week put out its interim report (pdf) covering the following topics:
  • Oversight of TDCJ, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and TJJD
  • Review of mental health services in the justice system
  • Evaluate 'pay for performance' model for privatizing juvenile justice
  • School discipline and the criminal justice system
There's a decent overview of operations of monitored agencies, including a good discussion of administrative segregation (solitary confinement) in adult prisons. Notable recommendations on the adult side (just a few excerpts, there were quite a few more) included:
  • The legislature and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice should look for more ways to focus a larger component of our correctional budget on rehabilitative investments, as opposed to simply inmate confinement.
  • The legislature and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice should consider ways to expand inmate educational and vocational training programs within the prison system as a core component of effectively rehabilitating offenders.
  • The Texas Department of Criminal Justice should explore new and innovative ways to increase access to prisoner visitation programs in order to fully prepare inmates for the re-entry process, including the potential use of teleconferencing as a visitation option.
Some of the recommendations regarding TJJD seemed oblivious to suggestions to further radically downsize or eliminate youth prison facilities. The report appears to assume they won't just continue to operate but may have programming bolstered - makes you wonder if the House and Senate are on the same page on that question.

On the mental health front, the suggestions seemed tepid and inadequate given the problems faced by the state in that arena. And the school discipline charge didn't result in significant recommendations.

These are just casual first impressions from initially skimming the document. Read the full thing (pdf) for more detail.


Anonymous said...

Brad Livingston's comments about treatment for the mentally ill in Texas prisons being a model for other states is deeply disturbing. Either Mr. Livingston has no idea how inadequate mental health treatment is in Texas prisons or was simply lying to the legislature. If he, as the head of the agency, cannot recognize this problem, there's not much hope that progress will be made.

Anonymous said...

To add to my previous comment - I recently learned that the only medications available to a person who suffers from Bipolar Disorder with severe psychotic features are Thorazine and Risperdal. Both of these can cause significant side effects and this particular person cannot take either of these. But, they are cheap. Now, I've been told that the doctor (more like a nurse practitioner usually) can prescribe medications that are not on their formulary - but in reality they will not. Therefore, this person who suffers from a serious mental illness is not on any medication at this time. Eventually, this person will cycle back into a psychotic episode which the correctional staff will have to deal with. If this is a model for other states....................

I've contacted the medical liaison and the omsbudsmans office and have not gotten any assistance from either. TDJC badly needs an independent oversight entity and I hope that any legislature that reads this will give this idea serious consideration.