Saturday, August 25, 2018

TDCJ budget requests less money than needed to meet 'minimum standards'

UPDATED/CorrectedAn earlier version of this post understated how much TDCJ proposed to spend on healthcare. It has been corrected throughout.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice put out its Legislative Appropriations Request today, requesting $7.3 billion for the coming FY 2020-2021 biennium.

Grits will discuss the LAR more thoroughly later, but off the top wanted to point out the health-line item (see exceptional item  #6), and TDCJ's comments about what might happen if prisoner healthcare is not adequately funded.

The agency requested funding of $1.43 billion for inmate healthcare services over the next biennium. However, they informed the Legislature:
an estimated $247.2 million is required to bring the FY 2020-21 funding to the projected levels of expense incurred for the delivery of services currently provided. Funding less than this level, which takes into account the rising costs of health care, could require elimination of services. Mission critical hardware and software systems are well beyond their life cycle and are obsolete. Without these significant upgrades, university providers face serious threats of system failures and security breaches, compromising patient care and safety.
Overall, "According to university providers, additional funding of $281.3 million is critical to ensure effective overall quality of care within the system and deliver the level of services required by minimum standards."

That "minimum standards" comment is significant. University administrators have been telling the Legislature for years that the system was barely constitutional - "on a thin line," UTMB vice president Ben Raimer has said.

Now we learn that the funding to maintain a current level of service is more than quarter-billion dollars less than what university providers say they need to "deliver the level of services required by minimum standards." Well, the only minimum standards that apply to prison healthcare are constitutional standards set by the Supreme Court through federal lawsuits.

So these data imply Texas is spending significantly less what it would need to for prisoner healthcare to pass constitutional muster. I suppose Texas prison administrators and legislative budget writers figure, "We're in the 5th Circuit, let's roll the dice!"


Steven Michael Seys said...

Call me cynical, but I don't see it as much of a gamble. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was stacked by W with justices who protect Texas from inconvenient technicalities like the Constitution of the United States. Indigent prisoners are all but barred from filing pro se. And there's very few lawyers in Texas willing to take on the TDCJ in court. Go figure, there's no gamble when the dice are loaded like this.

Anonymous said...

Minimum standards? Whatever happened to TDCJ #00864645. the man at Skyview who was repeatedly tortured on the bus that drove him back and forth between the Galveston prison hospital and Skyview prison in Rusk? Did the Civil Rights squad in the Dallas FBI office ever decide to pursue the matter? The prisoner is now in El Paso and has qualified for nursing home level care under the federal PACE program administered by Medicare and Medicaid. I am told that many pictures of the tortured man were sent to people on Capitol Hill in the Senate and House Judiciary and Appropriations committees.