FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Below you will find responses to questions that were submitted by participants during the 2001 TIFA Conference. The questions have been placed in categories for easier reading.

We hope this will provide education and information to those individuals wanting a better understanding of TDCJ policies and procedures. We look forward to future information- sharing through the TDCJ website (www.tdcj.state.tx.us), quarterly family group meetings, speaking engagements, and information updates provided via Internet e-mail to you by this office.

Thank you for your support of incarcerated loved ones and the ongoing positive interaction with this office.

Debbie Liles, Administrative Review
Kathy Cleere, TDCJ Ombudsman Coordinator

1. CLASSIFICATION:

QUESTION:

What changes are forthcoming in classification of offenders? Will this effect an offender's housing or job assignment?

RESPONSE:

TDCJ is currently revising the Classification Plan. This revision will reflect a different vocabulary when referring to the various custodies of offenders. Currently we utilize the basic custodies of Minimum Out (MO), Minimum In (MI), Medium (ME), and Close Custody (CC) for general population offenders. The custody system we will begin utilizing in March of 2002 will be based on levels as indicated below:

Proposed Custody Levels (target date March 2002)

G1       General Population Level 1 (Previously MO)
G2       General Population Level 2 (Previously MI)
G3       General Population Level 3 (If offender has a sentence of 50 years or greater, 3G must serve 10 flat and non 3G must serve 5 flat, to move to a less restrictive custody; job and housing assignments will be restricted.)
G4       General Population Level 4 (Previously ME)
G5       General Population Level 5 (Previously CC)

The G3 custody is what we are calling the “new custody” and it is primarily utilized for those offenders with lengthy sentences who have not served a significant amount of time. An offender who is assigned to G3 custody will not be allowed to live in dormitories that are outside of the main building of a facility. They may not be assigned to jobs such as maintenance, back door worker, SSI, any clerk position, or any job where the offender would have access to multiple areas of the facility. This custody will retain the same privileges as a G2 offender (currently MI). The guidelines are as follows:

50 year 3G (murder, capital murder, indecency with a child, aggravated kidnapping sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, health and safety code, chapter 481.134 (d), (d) and (f), and any offense with affirmative findings for use of a deadly weapon) will be required to serve 10 flat years before they are eligible to promote to a custody less restrictive than G3.

50 year non 3G offenses will be required to serve 5 flat years before they are eligible to promote to a custody level less restrictive than G3.

It should be noted that offenders who have been identified to meet the above criteria should have already been reassigned from the outside dorms and should have already received job changes. Therefore, when the custody change goes into effect, the issue will just be a matter of changing the computer data to reflect the correct custody.

Security Precaution Designators

The previous information discusses the future changes, but there may be an interest in what we have already done. All offenders in TDCJ have been reviewed to determine if they meet the criteria for the below listed security precaution designators.

ES*       Escape from an Adult Correctional Facility within the last 10 years
SA*       Staff assault with serious injury within the last 10 years
HS*       Taking a staff member hostage
SR        History of defeating restraint devices or secure cell doors

* Indicated the offender will not be assigned to a custody less restrictive than MEDIUM.

All offenders who have a designator of ES, SA, or HS placed on their record were assigned to ME custody. TDCJ has revised the privileges for Medium custody offenders to allow those offenders in Medium custody who are currently time earning status SAT 3 or SAT 4 and have a one (1) year clear major disciplinary history to retain the visitation and commissary privileges of a minimum custody offender.

Please keep in mind Agency policy does include a process for reviewing security precaution designators and removal of the designators when appropriate. When an offender meets specific criteria, that offender may be considered for removal of the code.

QUESTION:

Explain the GRAD program.

RESPONSE:

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has initiated a process that will provide a method for offenders to renounce their membership with a known Security Threat Group (STG). This procedure is titled the Gang Renouncement and Disassociation Process or GRAD. Those offenders willing to renounce their gang affiliation will be required to participate in the process and associated activities until successful completion is attained. This process is nine (9) months in duration.

After successful completion of this process, the offender will be released into general population and placed on a unit decided by the State Classification Committee. If the offender does not successfully complete the GRAD process or is found to be involved in STG activities after release to general population, the offender will be returned to administrative segregation and will not be allowed to participate in the GRAD process again. The offender must express, in writing, a desire to renounce his membership in the STG and it must be submitted to the Unit Security Threat Group Office. The Security Threat Group Management Office (STGMO) will make final decisions on any matters pertaining to the GRAD process.

QUESTION:

Will there be more programs for ex-gang members?

RESPONSE:

The Security Threat Group Management Office (STGMO) is exploring different programs that may apply to ex-gang members.

QUESTION:

How is the decision made to place an offender on a particular unit and why not close to home?

RESPONSE:

Each offender's unit of assignment is determined on the basis of the offender's total record and as dictated by the offender's medical and mental health, safety, security, age, type of offense, prior criminal record and educational, vocational and work related needs. Each unit has a different profile, which reflects age, security custodies and restrictions, medical and special programs, agriculture and industry programs. The offender's needs are matched with the unit profiles for capability. Most of our units are in rural areas and encompass the entire state, from El Paso to Edinburg to Pampa; few of the units are in metropolitan areas.

QUESTION:

Why don't all offenders get good time?

RESPONSE:

All offenders, except Death Row, are eligible to earn good time according to their status. However, some sentences (based upon the Penal Code they are convicted under) do not receive projected release dates but must either be released on Parole or serve their entire sentence. These sentences are referred to as Non-Mandatory Supervision sentences. These offenders do earn good time but it is not reflected in a projected release date. Additionally, due to the nature of the offense, some Parole eligibility requirements do not include good time in the calculations for Parole eligibility. Offenders' institutional adjustment may result in reduced good time or no good time earned according to their status (i.e., Line Class III earns no good time, Line Class II earns 25 days good time per month). However, this status is a direct consequence of the offender's institutional adjustment and may change based upon disciplinary status.

QUESTION:

Please explain the difference between flat time and flat time plus good time (example: an offender has to serve one fourth of his sentence [70th Leg. – 3G, 50 year sentence].

RESPONSE:

Flat time is actual day for day time served by an offender. Different Texas Legislatures have specified certain time calculations for offenses in determining their release. Certain crimes, therefore, are required to serve a particular amount of flat time prior to Parole eligibility. As an example, under the 70th Legislature, 3G offenses (Capitol Murder, Aggravated Kidnapping, Aggravated Sexual Assault, etc.) must serve a flat ¼ of their sentence before becoming Parole eligible while the 73rd Legislature 3G offender must serve a flat ½ of their sentence before becoming Parole eligible.

Many offenses allow for the use of flat time and good time earned to attain the minimum time served prior to Parole eligibility. The 70th Legislature and 73rd Legislature for non-3G offenses require reaching ¼ of the sentence by the use of flat and good time for Parole eligibility.

QUESTION:

If an offender in administrative segregation takes classes by correspondence, why can't they get good time credit?

RESPONSE:

Pre-70th Legislature offenses are awarded “educational” credits upon successful completion of a TDCJ sponsored vocational training program, a program of academic education (e.g., GED certificate, Associate Degree or Bachelors Degree), or an on-the-job training program. The completion of any of these programs require an offender's participation in classroom instruction per Windham Independent School District policy. Administrative Segregation offenders because of their security requirements are unable to participate in classroom instruction.

QUESTION:

Is there anyway to segregate young white males (frequently victims of Hispanic, black and older white males) on a separate unit so they do not have to fight to defend themselves?

RESPONSE:

Lamar vs. Collins ordered TDCJ to integrate unit housing. To maintain adherence with the court ordered stipulations, integration must occur. Many criteria, including height, weight, and age, are reviewed in making assignments. TDCJ's Youthful Offender Program does provide some insulation for offenders under the age of 17.

QUESTION:

What is the policy requiring racial integration of offenders for housing purposes?

RESPONSE:

This issue is the result of a lawsuit, Lamar vs. Lynaugh, Civil Action No. 72-H-1391, against TDCJ. The law requires that TDCJ have a set pattern to randomly assign offenders to two person cells. We can only deviate from this if there are documented reasons to indicate that housing a certain offender with another offender of a certain race would constitute a security concern. The law does not allow personal preferences to be considered.

2. COMMUNICATION/VISITATION

QUESTION:

Why are visitors required to follow rules that appear to treat them like they have committed a crime (can't carry a book to read for self or children)?

RESPONSE:

We apologize if we make any visitor feel uncomfortable or inconvenienced, however, it is necessary to limit the amount and type of items that are brought into the unit due to security and contraband concerns.

QUESTION:

Could telephones be sanitized after each visit?

RESPONSE:

Telephones are sanitized.

QUESTION:

Could writing pad or pens be placed at the officers' station, to be used at the station, for jotting down a brief note?

RESPONSE:

Officers do have pads of paper and pens at their station.

QUESTION:

Do visitation rules vary from unit to unit, if so why?

RESPONSE:

The Agency has standard visitation rules, but the Warden must have the discretion to implement policy and make decisions that affect the security of the facility and the safety of visitors.

QUESTION:

Can immediate family members have a contact visit with an offender that is to be executed?

RESPONSE:

No. Contact visits are not allowed for death-sentenced offenders.

QUESTION:

Which offenders are required to take DNA tests and can they refuse the test? If the offender has already given DNA samples, can they have it taken off their record?

RESPONSE:

Offenders with the following convictions are required by law to submit to a blood test for DNA purposes:

1.       All sexual offenses
2.       Murder
3.       Aggravated assault
4.       Burglary of a habitation

Offenders on both Institutional Division (ID) and State Jail (SJ) Facilities can refuse, but disciplinary will be imposed. ID offenders will be forced to give a blood sample at the releasing facility before they are released. State Jail offenders will not be forced to give a sample but their names will be forwarded to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). If an offender files a grievance after he submits a blood sample, and an investigation reveals the sample was taken erroneously, a request to destroy the sample will be made to the DPS.

QUESTION:

Is there information to families on appropriate dress for visitation?

RESPONSE:

Appropriate dress requirements are outlined in the offender visitation plan. These are made available to visitors, upon request, during visitation. They are also outlined on the Agency's website.

QUESTION:

Why can't all offenders have contact visits?

RESPONSE:

Contact visits are a privilege and only afforded to those offenders who have shown good institutional behavior, and are not considered a security threat to visitors or the institution. Offenders in disciplinary status will be eligible for contact visits if or when they are promoted out of that status.

3. DISCIPLINARY

QUESTION:

What is the process for disciplinary hearing procedures and appeals?

RESPONSE:

After an offense report is written, investigated, approved, and graded, the offender is served notice of the alleged rule violation. The offender is also notified that the charge will be heard either at a minor or major hearing. For minor hearings, the process is less formal than major hearings, which subject the offender to major penalties. Minor hearings are held in accordance with administrative procedures required by TDCJ. The accused offender has the right to: (1) receive advance (24 hours) written notice of charges before the hearing, (2) be present at the hearing, and (3) make a verbal statement and submit a written statement at the hearing.

Major hearings are conducted in accordance with due process requirements, and administrative procedures required by TDCJ. Due Process requirements entitle the offender to: (1) be present at the hearing (2) receive advance (24 hours) written notice of charges before the hearing, (3) call witnesses and present documentary evidence, (4) have an impartial hearing officer, (5) receive a written statement of the evidence relied on for the finding, and the reasons for the punishment, and (6) receive assistance from a staff member when the offender is illiterate or the case is complex. In TDCJ, a staff counsel substitute helps the accused prepare a defense and represents him at the hearing. Among the administrative procedures required are: (1) process a case (serve notice and conduct hearing) within established time limits, (2) assess punishments within limits, (3) obtain mental health clearance when required and (4) use interpreters when required. Moreover, TDCJ has the burden to present evidence to support the charge(s), and to meet the standard of guilt, which is preponderance of credible evidence. Major hearings are tape recorded by audiocassette.

At the conclusion of the hearing (major or minor) the hearing officer notifies the offender of the right to appeal the finding and penalty imposed. An offender has 15 days from the hearing date to file an appeal to Step 1. The offender may also listen to the taped recording of his disciplinary hearing, and may request the assistance of a counsel substitute to prepare his appeal. Step 1 grievances have 40 days from receiving the appeal to answer the grievance. An offender has 15 days from the date the Step 1 response was received to file an appeal to Step 2. Step 2 grievances have 35 days to answer the grievance. The Step 2 response is final, and exhausts the offender's administrative remedies.

QUESTION:

What recourse do offenders have if the process is not followed?

RESPONSE:

Correction of records -- If a procedural requirement was not followed on a case, the case will be corrected. A case may be corrected by one of two ways: (a) overturn, with or without the option to rehear, which means the record is deleted from computer records; or (b) modifying the charge or punishment, as appropriate, to be within established limits or policy. If an offender can demonstrate that a due process requirement was not met, the case will be overturned. For example, if an offender is denied a requested witness without justifying the denial, the case will be overturned (with the option to rehear). Also, if an offender can show an administrative requirement was not met, the case will be corrected. For example, if an offender shows he was not cleared by mental health staff prior to the hearing being conducted, the case will be overturned. During fiscal year 2001, a total of 1,702 disciplinary cases were corrected.

4. FACILITY OPERATIONS

QUESTION:

Is there a way for family members to access an offender's Trust Fund account via the Internet to check his/her expenditures and balances?

RESPONSE:

No. Transaction information is considered personal and confidential and is not subject to the Open Records Act.

QUESTION:

Why don't vendors keep their machines stocked and in working order?

RESPONSE:

TDCJ vending machines are operated by the Texas Commission for the Blind. If you wish to file a complaint, you may write:

Texas Commission for the Blind – BET
Attn: Nancy D. Jones, Contract Specialist
P. O. Box 12866
Austin, Texas 78711-2866

QUESTION:

Is the use of ID wristbands being instituted statewide?

RESPONSE:

No. Wristbands are utilized on some units in an ongoing effort to promote security by identifying an offender's assigned housing area clearly.

QUESTION:

Are their any improvements planned to bring relief to offenders during the hot summer?

RESPONSE:

TDCJ officials meet every April to review heat-related issues and implement new ideas for the health and safety of officers and offenders (see attached sheet covering the steps taken for 2001).

QUESTION:

Why do offenders not have privacy from the opposite gender, especially in strip searches?

RESPONSE:

TDCJ policy governing strip searches was developed through coordination with the National Institute of Corrections. Policy states “staff of the same gender shall conduct the search. Female offenders shall not be strip-searched by, or in the visual presence of, male officers. For male offenders, if circumstances dictate that the search must be conducted by staff of the opposite gender, such searches are authorized under this policy only in extraordinary circumstances and when approved by a supervisor.” Female officers may be in the vicinity to provide security but shall not actively participate in the strip search.

QUESTION:

Why do you have to wake offenders in the middle of the night for a count? Why not use small night-lights?

RESPONSE:

Counts are conducted in a manner to ensure the security of the facility and enhance public safety. Sometimes this requirement causes an inconvenience necessary as history has proven. On more than one occasion an offender has created a “dummy” to hide their absence. Of course, knowing an offender's location at all times is of utmost importance.

QUESTION:

Why are officers allowed to carry objects like big tools (crowbars) on their person during their shift?

RESPONSE:

The only tools officers carry are the metal tools needed to open the offenders' food tray slot.

QUESTION:

To whom are the Unit Liaison officers on each unit accountable?

RESPONSE:

These officers are accountable to the Warden, who is, in turn, accountable to the Regional Director.

QUESTION:

Why punish the whole unit (“lockdown”) for weeks because a few cause trouble?

RESPONSE:

After an incident, the unit or a portion of the unit is put on lockdown to facilitate a complete investigation. As the investigation proceeds, offenders are released from lockdown as soon as it can be determined they are not involved. Lockdowns are not initiated to punish offenders, but to ensure the safety of offenders and staff.

5. MEDICAL/HEALTH

QUESTION:

How does an offender get needed medical attention?

RESPONSE:

Offenders should fill out a written Sick Call Request slip (HAS-9) and place it in a Sick Call Request box if they need medical treatment or other services from the medical department. Unit staff can point out where the Sick Call Request boxes are located. The Sick Call Request slips are collected at a minimum of once a day and taken to the medical department where they are reviewed and appropriate action taken. Dental requests are referred to dental staff; mental health requests are referred to mental health staff. If the request requires an offender to be seen for sick call in the medical department, the medical department will schedule you for triage/evaluation. If it is determined that an offender needs to see a doctor or a physician extender, the medical department will arrange an appointment. An offender may not request a provider by name. If the medical problem is urgent, the offender should tell an officer or staff member and request assistance from the medical department. This is called the “walk-in” procedure. If one of the professional medical employees at the medical department agrees that an offender needs immediate attention, the offender will receive immediate attention. However, if medical staff determines the situation is not urgent, he/she will tell the offender to fill out a written Sick Call Request and put it in the box to receive non-urgent medical attention. The offender does not need to fill out a written Sick Call Request if he/she has something minor and only need Tylenol. Tylenol is available at various locations on each facility.

QUESTION:

Is medical staff certified or practicing with appropriate credentials?

RESPONSE:

Yes. It is the responsibility of the Health Services Division to verify that medical staff has the appropriate credentials/licensure.

QUESTION:

How should questions concerning offender complaints and/or grievance about medical care be addressed?

RESPONSE:

If an offender believes he/she did not receive medical care that is necessary and appropriate for your medical condition, there are several things that you can do:

Following an attempt at informal resolution at the unit level, an offender can have the matter reviewed by TDCJ Health Services, Patient Liaison Program. Send by truck mail to:

Patient Liaison Program
Health Services Administration Complex
Huntsville, Texas

or by U.S. mail to:

TDCJ-Health Services Division
Patient Liaison Program
P. O. Box 99
Huntsville, Texas 77342

If an offender has a complaint or problem about his/her medical care in TDCJ, the offender has a right to file a grievance in accordance with the appropriate offender grievance procedures. This includes the responsibility on the part of the offender to attempt informal resolution of medical complaints with medical supervisory staff.

QUESTION:

Do offenders have co-payments?

RESPONSE:

In accordance with state law, if a visit to a TDCJ facility health clinic meets offender health care co-payment criteria, the offender will be charged a $3.00 co-payment fee. Offenders will be provided access to health services regardless of ability to pay.

Any complaint about medical co-payment must be made to the Manager of Health Services immediately upon receipt of the Trust Fund statement containing the charge. If the offender is an indigent, a deduction will not be made until/unless the offender receives funds. However, any charge to an offender's Trust Fund account causes a statement to be generated for the offender's immediate review. Charges believed to be ineligible must be reported when the offender receives the statement showing the charge. Failure to do so will result in the inability to grieve the issue because the offender will have exceeded the time limits for filing a grievance.

The Patient Liaison Program does not review concerns related to co-payment. If the Manager of Health Services is unable to resolve the problem, the offender must seek resolution through the grievance mechanism. Restoration of a co-payment by the Health Services Division can only occur through the venue of a sustained Step 2 Grievance.

6. GRIEVANCE

QUESTION:

How does an offender file a grievance?

RESPONSE:

Step 1 and Step 2 grievance forms are maintained at central locations in each housing area and may be requested from any officer or the Unit Grievance Investigator. An offender has fifteen (15) days from the date of the alleged incident/issue or when he should have knowledge of the incident/issue, or the date any court dismisses/stays a civil suit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies to file a Step 1 grievance. An offender has fifteen (15) days from the date of the Warden's signature on the Step 1 form to submit a Step 2 appeal. Offenders may seek help with completing the grievance form from either staff, or other offenders. Once completed, the offender should place the completed grievance form (Step 1 or Step 2) in a grievance box (located in various prominent locations o the unit) or give it directly to the Unit Grievance Investigator. It should be noted that Correctional Officers may distribute blank grievance forms, but are prohibited from handling the grievance after it has been completed.

QUESTION:

What are the time periods for response to an offender grievance?

RESPONSE:

Unit grievance staff has forty (40) days from the date the Step 1 grievance was received to investigate the incident/issue and respond to the offender. The offender has fifteen (15) days from the date of the Warden's signature to submit a Step 2 appeal. Central Office grievance staff has thirty-five (35) days to investigate the appeal and respond to the offender. In most cases the entire process should be completed within ninety (90) days; however, there may be issues that require more time to investigate. In these cases, the offender will be notified that an additional forty (40) days is needed at Step 1 or thirty-five (35) days at Step 2 is necessary to complete the investigation. Only one extension is allowed at either step of the process.

QUESTION:

What procedure does an offender use to appeal a grievance? Does an offender need an attorney for this appeal process?

RESPONSE:

Step 2 forms are maintained at central locations in each housing area and may be requested from any officer or the Unit Grievance Investigator. An offender has fifteen (15) days from the date of the Warden's signature on the Step 1 form to submit a Step 2 appeal. Offenders may seek help with completing the grievance form from either staff, or other offenders. Once completed, the offender should place the completed grievance form (Step 1 or Step 2) in a grievance box (located in various prominent locations on the unit) or give it directly to the Unit Grievance Investigator. The Unit Grievance Investigator will immediately forward the Step 2 grievance to the Central Grievance Office in Huntsville for investigation and response. There is no need for an attorney at either step of the grievance process.

QUESTION:

What if an offender never heard back after filing a grievance?

RESPONSE:

If an offender has not received a response to his Step 1 grievance within the specified time (discussed in #2 above), the offender should contact the Unit Grievance Investigator on his/her unit of assignment. If no action is taken within a reasonable amount of time, the offender may write to the Administrator for Offender Grievances, P. O. Box 99, Huntsville, Texas.

7. PAROLE

QUESTION:

Are parole reviews different for non-aggravated and aggravated cases?

RESPONSE:

Parole reviews are no different for non-aggravated and aggravated cases. Parole eligibility is what is different. Case summaries are prepared very much the same for each, though we identify for the Board the fact that the case is aggravated (a.k.a. “3g”) or non-aggravated. The Board considers all aspects of every case, regardless of its type. (Note: Do not confuse “aggravated cases” with SB 45 cases, which are certain cases that require a full Board review and two-thirds majority of the whole Board to be approved for parole release. Those reviews often take much longer as more members have to receive and review the cases if it is SB 45).

QUESTION:

When and what sequence does a parole file follow when it leaves the Austin office? (Example: eligible for parole February 2002)

RESPONSE:

The sequences involved in a February 2002 parole review case:

Appears on case pull around six (6) months before the initial parole eligibility or four (4) months before subsequent parole review docket (month year to which their Next Review is set when denied parole on last review).
Files are pulled and prepared for delivery by courier van to the Institutional Parole Office that is responsible for having the offender interviewed, and for having the updated report typed/proof-read. Interviews usually occur in the three-month to two-month window before the initial eligibility date or subsequent review docket date or as soon as possible after receipt if those dates are past for any reason.
Files are delivered to the Board office responsible for voting the cases, usually in the two-month to one-month window before the initial eligibility date or subsequent review docket date or as soon as possible after typing if those dates are past for any reason.
After Board of Pardon and Parole's (BPP) decision, files are returned to Austin for release processing if parole approved or to be maintained in cabinets until next review if parole is denied. Release plan investigations are initiated if parole approved, Notices to Trial Officials (NTO's) are sent out, protest letters are received and transmitted to BPP, approved plans are reviewed and those outside the offenders Legal County of Residence (LCOR) require transmittal to BPP for permission to be released outside the LCOR, which is a statutory requirement.
After all is in proper order, a release certificate is generated (and printed in Huntsville) for delivery to TDCJ-ID Records, who actually complete the final time credit calculations, set the release date and arrange the transportation of the offenders to the release sites (Huntsville for males, Gatesville for females).

QUESTION:

How can an offender be sure the information in his file is correct?

RESPONSE:

When interviewed by an IPO (Institutional Parole Officer) the offender is allowed to contrast any information they claim is incorrect that is brought to their attention through the interview process. They are questioned on all aspects of their criminal and social history and all information not deemed sensitive or confidential is usually discussed with them. Every effort is made to allow the offender to provide clarification or explanations of any information with which they disagree.

QUESTION:

Do parolees have to quit their job if they make too much money?

RESPONSE:

No.

QUESTION:

What action can families take to assist in intrastate parole?

RESPONSE:

None. Interstate compact services between states must be coordinated

8. CRIMINAL JUSTICE ASSISTANCE DIVISION

QUESTION:

How does probation deal with families?

RESPONSE:

Community Supervision and Corrections Departments (CSCD) also known as Adult Probation Departments, provides primary services to adult offenders through various programs designed and developed through the local Judicial District Community Justice Council and implemented through the CSCD. Many programs exist, such as; substance abuse counseling, residential services, sex offender programming, specialized caseloads for the youthful offender, culturally specific programs and domestic violence programs. Additionally, there are services and referrals for family members of adult offenders who participate in these programs and caseloads.

QUESTION:

Is there shock probation? If so, please explain what it is and how effective it is.

RESPONSE:

Yes. According to statute, the jurisdiction of a court in which a sentence requiring imprisonment in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is imposed by a judge of the court shall continue for 180 days from the date of execution of the sentence. Before the expiration of 180 days from the date the sentence actually begins, the judge may on his/her own motion, suspend further execution of the sentence and place the defendant on community supervision (probation).

The effectiveness of shock probation is unknown by this writer and would be better answered by professionals in the field of research. Although, if used properly, offenders would benefit if followed by appropriate supervision strategies along with programming that I is known to work.

QUESTION:

If a judge or jury could place an offender on community supervision for up to 15 years, instead of 10 years, would there be a significant effect on the prison system?

RESPONSE:

It is not believed increasing the time an individual serves on community supervision would have any impact on the prison system population. Instead, it would be more appropriate to utilize programs that are known to work effectively in the community supervision process.

9. TRAINING/PERSONNEL

QUESTION:

How much training is done for officers? What is their general education and age?

RESPONSE:

Correctional Officers receive 284 hours of Pre-Service training and 40 hours In-Service training annually. They must possess a High School Diploma from a state-accredited school or a state-issued GED and be at least 18 years of age.

QUESTION:

Are background checks done on officers?

RESPONSE:

A Texas Criminal Inquiry Check (TCIC) is completed on each applicant.

10. OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

QUESTION:

When a report of staff misconduct or brutality is made, how is it handled?

RESPONSE:

There are several factors which affect how reports of this nature are handled by the Investigations Division. Two of the most important factors are the timeliness of the report and the seriousness of the incident. If the conduct appears to be a criminal offense, a criminal investigation is conducted. If the incident appears to constitute a violation of TDCJ policies, procedures, rules, or regulations an administrative review and/or administrative investigation is conducted to determine the facts surrounding the incident.

QUESTION:

How do you investigate claims by an offender of harm?

RESPONSE:

When the Investigations Division receives offender allegations which indicate an increased risk of harm from others, the allegation is forwarded to the Unit Warden/Facility Administrator for investigation in accordance with Agency guidelines, effective September 1, 2001. If the investigation validates the offender's concerns, the Unit Warden/Facility Administrator shall notify and provide a copy of the investigation to the Investigations Division for review to determine if further administrative or criminal action is required. If the allegation contains elements indicating a criminal offense, the Investigations Division will initiate a criminal investigation into the matter.

In the event an investigation is opened by the Investigations Division, the first step in most cases is to interview the offender who made the allegation. Based on an evaluation of the information provided by the offender, witness statements, record checks, and physical evidence, the investigation could result in criminal charges, administrative action or no action.

QUESTION:

In cases of inmate brutality or assault on an officer, why are the videotapes or cameras not made available to view for representing clear facts?

RESPONSE:

Per the TDCJ Open Records manual, the videotapes are not part of the information that is subject to release to the General Public or to Offenders. Videotapes are provided to the Special Prosecution Unit and to the Attorney General's Office for litigation purposes at their request.

QUESTION:

What is the role of the OIG?

RESPONSE:

The role of the Office of the Inspector General Investigations Division is to conduct timely, impartial, accurate, and complete investigations that provide a basis for the appropriate resolution or adjudication of all investigative matters under its jurisdiction. Public safety within and without the prison system is a primary concern of the Investigations Division.

11. OTHER AREAS OF INTEREST

QUESTION:

Are there biblical courses offered to offenders?

RESPONSE:

Biblical courses are offered to the offenders in TDCJ. The Chaplaincy Department offers the “Life Changes Academy” which include:

1. Family Programs involving Family Seminars and Parenting courses.
2. Life Skills Programs consisting of seminars, classes and small group interaction to deal with the inner issues of life including self-esteem, codependency, chemical dependency and relationships.
3. Growth Groups consisting of accountability groups such as Christians Against Substance Abuse and Promise Keepers.
4. Spiritual Group –groups consisting of the same types of activities that would be found in the typical church, mosques, or synagogues.

All of these programs or classes are biblical or according to the particular faith group's Holy Book.

QUESTION:

What is the new prototype program being testing at the Neal Unit? Will it limit ministry programs and prison wide events (Crusades, etc.)?

RESPONSE:

The only new program being considered at the Neal Unit is the “Overcomers Program” developed by Johnny Moffitt. This program would not limit ministry programs and prison wide events.

QUESTION:

Why can't a different religion or Bible Study be started on a unit if enough offenders are interested?

RESPONSE:

Different religious or bible studies can be started on a unit if enough offenders are interested. The following conditions must be met in order for them to take place:

1. There must be security available for supervision.
2. There must be time and space available.
3. There must be a volunteer available to facilitate the class.

QUESTION:

Why is it so difficult for an offender to get into a program if he already has his GED?

RESPONSE:

In accordance with the Individualized Treatment Plan (ITP) procedures, offenders who do not have high school diplomas or GED's have highest priority for enrollment in Windham School District (WSD) academic classes

QUESTION:

Can offenders in State Jails get their GED?

RESPONSE:

Yes. WSD offers academic classes at State Jails; however, State Jail confinees have priority for enrollment. Transfer offenders may be enrolled if space is available.

QUESTION:

How do offenders finish their GED once they are out of prison?

RESPONSE:

Adult education programs are available in many communities, particularly in the major metropolitan areas.

QUESTION:

Why did the Barber course stop?

RESPONSE:

The decision to discontinue the Barber course was made after careful thought and deliberation. The Barber course was offered at the Clemens Unit. When the Youthful Offender Program was initiated at the Clemens Unit, the unit population changed. A survey was conducted to determine the needs and interests of the youthful offenders. The survey indicated little interest in the Barber course and more interest in construction trades. Additionally, labor market information indicated better employment opportunities in construction trades.

QUESTION:

Why do some units have computers and some do not? Can a family member donate a new or used computer for an offender to use?

RESPONSE:

Windham School District operates a Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) lab at nearly every facility; however, not all students have access to the lab. Students are selected for participation based on their needs and may only use the CAI lab computers for instructional purposes. They are not allowed to work on any personal projects in the CAI lab. Additionally, offenders are not allowed access to the Internet. **WSD does not accept donations of computers for individual offenders to use. **

QUESTION:

If an offender's family pays, can offenders take correspondence classes?

RESPONSE:

Participation in correspondence courses is permissible with approval of the unit warden.

QUESTION:

Are there plans to make more educational programs or correspondence classes available to offenders in the future?

RESPONSE:

WSD is currently offering academic programs at nearly every facility and vocational programs at most facilities. WSD has neither the physical classroom/shop space nor the funding to serve all offenders at the same time; therefore, offenders under age 35 and within five years of projected release have the highest priority for enrollment in WSD academic and vocational programs. At the present funding level, WSD cannot expand current programming. WSD does not offer correspondence courses.

QUESTION:

Is it possible for an offender to transfer from one facility to another for educational purposes?

RESPONSE:

Yes. WSD requests transfers for educational purposes when necessary; however, transfer decisions are made by TDCJ based on bed space, custody level, etc.

QUESTION:

Does TDCJ look at the other states for prison programs? If so, how can the general public provide their suggestions or input?

RESPONSE:

Yes, the Programs & Services Division (PSD) welcomes suggestions and recommendations from the public. They may write to the attention of the Programs & Services Division, P. O. Box 99, Huntsville, Texas 77342-0099 and the issue will be addressed by the appropriate section.

QUESTION:

With staff shortages, how are the volunteer programs being affected? What is their future?

RESPONSE:

Mandatory programs within TDCJ that utilize volunteers are not affected by the staff shortages. Due to the fact that some units are experiencing greater shortages than others, some non-mandatory programs have been scaled back. This does not mean that the program is being done away with. As the staffing issues are addressed by administration the programs will increase in availability. The staff shortages have encouraged PSD administration to look at the roles of volunteers and how to better utilize them to continue offering the best offender programming.

QUESTION:

Are there special programs for offenders that deal with anger management?

RESPONSE:

Anger management is an important part of the curriculum currently being used by Windham ISD, the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), the Substance Abuse Treatment Program (SATP), and the Youthful Offender Program (YOP).