Notice to Family Support Groups

 

Offender Property Policy Revision

Administrative Directive (AD)-03.72, “Offender Property”, which provides guidelines and procedures for the handling of offender property has been revised.  The revision is intended to improve the safety of staff and offenders, make both more accountable, improve consistency from unit to unit, and generally simplify the property process.  These revisions will become effective September 1, 2002.  A Notice to Offenders was posted (in English and Spanish) in June 2002.  This notice explains the revisions to the policy and provides the offender population time in which to become acquainted with the changes and still have plenty of time to bring their property into compliance with the policy.  Each segregated offender will receive a individual copy of the notice to ensure he has been advised of the revisions.  A copy of the policy will be available for review in the Law Library prior to September 1, 2002. 

 

The Revision Process

The process of revising the offender property policy comes as a result of two years of extensive thought and input from staff at many levels and from offenders in different areas of the state.  In the beginning of the review process, several offenders were interviewed and asked what concerns they had in regard to the handling of their property.  That was followed by interviews with several property officers, numerous unit security and administrative staff.  This was done in an effort to identify property-related concerns and issues that had surfaced over the years.  As a result of these efforts the following needs were identified and addressed in the policy revision:

 

·         Improve consistency on the type and amounts of offender property allowed on all facilities;

·         Establish consistent guidelines regarding processing property at all intake facilities;

·         Provide clear guidance as to offender responsibility for property;

·         Improve the documentation and tracking of property and the ability of staff to enforce the policy;

·         Improve safety of staff and offenders during transport;

·         Ensure that offender property is stored within guidelines in order to reduce fire hazards, and assist with sanitation and housekeeping issues;

·         Simplify the entire property process; and,

·         Develop a monitoring process to increase accountability.

 

The goal of the policy is to establish guidelines and procedures related to what personal and state-issued property an offender is authorized to possess or obtain while in custody, as well as regulations for the storage and transfer of offender property.  Offender and staff safety is of utmost importance to agency management just as it is to the legislature, the public, and offender families.  Offenders who choose to possess personal property while in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) must understand they are required to follow the TDCJ’s rules and regulations regarding the acquisition, possession, storage and disposition of said property.  Current possession of an item does not mean you may continue to have it after September 1, 2002.  If an item you possess is no longer “authorized offender property,” it will have to be disposed of by August 15, 2002 in one of the following methods:

 

1.                  Send it to someone at the offender’s expense;

2.                  Have it picked up by a visitor;

3.                  Request that  TDCJ to dispose of it; or

4.                  Request additional storage, if appropriate.

 

 

 

 

General Changes

The revised policy now includes a detailed list of items which an offender may bring into the TDCJ.  It describes the items that are issued to an offender, as well as items that are allowed to be purchased while an offender is housed on a facility owned by, or operated for, the TDCJ.  Definitions have been added to the policy to ensure that staff and offenders know how each item is classified, and so that everyone understands and has the same information.   For example, a consumable item is an item that is intended to be edible.  Personal hygiene items include things such as dental items (toothbrush, brush holder, tooth powder, toothpaste, dental floss, denture adhesive, etc.), shampoo and other hair care products (e.g., conditioner, activator, gel, etc.), skin care products (e.g., baby oil, lotion, baby powder, foot powder, petroleum jelly, etc.), soap, soap holder, disposable razor, shaving cream, aftershave, comb, brush, deodorant and shower shoes. 

 

A newly-received offender includes any offender arriving at an intake unit/facility:  on a new commitment; following a bench warrant; or as a transfer from a privately-operated facility.  Generally this is any offender that has been outside the custody of the TDCJ.   The property items permitted at the time of intake will be limited.  Offenders that are returning from bench warrant or transferring from a privately-operated facility will be authorized to possess the same items as a newly-received offender, in addition to registered property for which they must have appropriate TDCJ registration forms.

 

Religious items have been included in the policy and on the inventory forms.  A religious item is something that an offender possesses due to his faith.  The Director of Chaplains must approve “religious items” to ensure consistency system wide.  These may include a religious text (e.g., Bible, Torah, Quran, Book of Mormon, etc.); a religious medallion (no larger than one and one-half [1˝”] inches wide or long, unless made of inflexible material); Rosary (shall not be worn as a necklace); headband, Hijab, Kufi, Yarmulke, turban, and Talith, all of which must be white; prayer rug; medicine bag; wooden comb; and natural objects (e.g., feather, shell, bone, sacred stones, plant, etc.).  If appropriate to the faith (i.e. Native American for example), a leather string or twine may be used in lieu of neck chain, and only if holding an appropriate religious medallion.

 

Property storage containers to be utilized in housing areas will be made from metal and they will be fire-resistant and closable.  The storage capacity of these containers has always been a minimum of 1.75 cubic feet.  We are now establishing a maximum of 2.0 cubic feet.  Proper storage of property is necessary to assist in the prevention of fires and the control of sanitation and housekeeping problems, as well as pest control.   An offender who is housed alone in a double cell may only possess and store his property in the amounts allowed.  This means that it will not be permissible to use an empty bunk or an empty storage container simply because it is there. A shelf may be used to store one photograph and one each of personal hygiene items. Shoes, state-issued clothing, typewriter, radio, fan, etc., may be neatly stored in the housing area.  All other property, to include commissary-purchased clothing, must be stored in the closable storage container.  Other types of storage are available for specialized items such as legal and educational materials; however, guidelines to request these additional containers are established in policy and the offender must have the Warden’s approval.  Female offenders may purchase a gender box, which will be used to store gender-related items only, and must remain closed when not in use.  These items include bras, panties, hair clips, rollers, bobby pins, tweezers, makeup, perfumed lotion, feminine hygiene products, stud earrings, curling iron, and hair dryer.

 

The commissary will begin stocking a new style mesh commissary bag and it will be available soon.  This change was made to enhance safety (the contents of the bag will be visible).  The solid cloth bag previously sold will be replaced through attrition.

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning September 1, offenders coming into TDCJ may bring in their “free-world” shoes only if the TDCJ does not have an appropriate size available; however, they must be surrendered once TDCJ shoes are provided.  Offenders will be able to possess a total of two pairs of shoes:  one pair will be state-issued shoes; and one pair may be purchased from the commissary.  In addition to these two pairs of shoes, an offender may possess shower shoes (which are a personal hygiene item) and work shoes.  The work shoes will be stored at the work site and not in the housing area.  Shoes currently possessed in excess of two pair should be disposed of.  If an offender presently possesses a pair of “free-world” shoes, he may keep them as his 2nd pair, until they wear out. 

 

Multi-outlet power strips have contributed to electrical power overloads on some units and will no longer be sold.  The commissary will have a new design, two-outlet adapter available very soon.  Once they are available, the method for transition will be identified and offenders appropriately notified. 

 

Jewelry items that will be permitted are one wedding ring and one wristwatch.  A “freeworld” wristwatch is authorized at intake and may be kept until it stops working, at which time it will be disposed of.  Offenders may purchase a wristwatch from the commissary.  Female offenders may have two pair of commissary-purchased stud earrings in addition to a wedding ring and wristwatch.  After September 1, 2002, only commissary-purchased aluminum chains (cost approx. 20 cents) will be allowed.  If an offender has jewelry items which are no longer permitted they will need to be disposed of.

 

Offenders who are assigned to Administrative Segregation Level 3 or Death Row Level 3 may store their restricted property in the property room for nine consecutive months.  After eight consecutive months, these offenders will be contacted by the property officer and asked to make a decision as to how they wish to dispose of their restricted property.  The eight consecutive months for offenders currently assigned to Level 3 custodies will begin on September 1st (policy effective date).

 

Offenders will be permitted to take one red-mesh bag of property with them in transport vehicles.  Eventually, each bus will be equipped with storage bins in the front area of the bus to hold these bags of property.  This will eliminate bags of property on the seats and in the aisles (a safety hazard).  An offender’s bag of property will be tagged with his name and number; and transport staff will check the tags against the offender’s TDCJ photo I.D. to ensure the offender gets on and off the bus with “his property”.  The secure transporting of offender property is expected to help reduce the chance of loss and damage.  It will be important for each offender to choose wisely the property he wants to take with him because any additional property will remain at the unit to be shipped after he arrives at the next unit of assignment.

 

Offenders who depart on a bench warrant may store their property in the property room for up to 6 months. If the offender is released from the TDCJ for parole or emergency absence, any property left behind may be stored for 30 days.  Offenders are responsible for making arrangements for any property left behind, by either having it picked up or sent to the offender at his expense.  If arrangements are not made, the TDCJ will dispose of the property.

 

An emphasis has been placed on improved accountability and documentation for offender property.  New forms have been designed, each bearing a “PROP” form number.  As new procedures are implemented, offenders will eventually receive new inventory and registration forms.  Registered property items will include:  non-TDCJ-issued shoes or boots, portable radio, electric fan, typewriter, hotpot, wedding ring, and any “free-world” wrist watch.  Female offenders will be required to register curling irons and hairdryers. 

 

 

 

 

 

A newly received offender will be able to make a regular commissary spend once he receives his TDCJ photo I.D. and his money has been posted to his Trust Fund account.  The agency is striving to develop a master commissary product list which will establish consistency system wide.  Some items will be sold in limited amounts.  Stamps are one of the items that will be limited after September 1st.  Stamps will be sold up to thirty (30) at a time.  An offender may have no more than sixty (60) stamps in his possession at a time.  If an offender runs out of stamps, he may request approval to purchase additional stamps via an I-60 request to the Warden.  The limitations that this policy has imposed should help reduce trafficking, trading, and incidents of extortion and thereby enhance the overall safety of offenders and staff.

 

To enhance security, and to assist offenders in controlling excessive property, the guidelines for purchasing items from an outside vendor have been modified.  Products that are similar to those available through the commissary shall not be approved for outside purchase.  Unauthorized items received from an outside vendor at a unit/facility for an offender will be returned.  The offender must provide postage within sixty (60) days; otherwise, the items will be disposed of in accordance with policy.  Offenders are reminded of their responsibility to properly store all of their property.  Therefore, if you cannot store it properly -- don’t buy it. 

 

Items for which the Mail Room staff is required to accept by signature will be logged in at the Mailroom.  The offender addressee’s signature will also be required to document the completed delivery.  This added measure of accountability will improve offender property issues as they relate to the delivery of magazines and other like items that are received through the mail.

 

Contraband

Previously the definition of contraband was separated into three categories: dangerous, non-dangerous and nuisance.  Nuisance contraband included not only trash items, but also unauthorized items, and has been eliminated.  Contraband is now defined as any item:  that is altered; out-of-place; in excessive amounts; or is prohibited to possess or obtain while in custody, unless received by the offender as the result of a state or federal court order.  There are two types of contraband:  dangerous and non-dangerous.

 

·                     Dangerous contraband is any item which represents a threat to the security and safety of the unit/facility, or violates an agency rule, or state or federal law.  Such items include, but are not limited to:  sensitive information (as defined in the Open Records Manual); weapons; intoxicants; currency or negotiable instruments; tools; ammunition; explosives; combustible or flammable items; altered, damaged or repaired electrical cords; controlled substances; and authorized medicine, if not used in the manner prescribed.

 

·                     Non-Dangerous contraband is any item which represents a threat to the management of the unit/facility or is in violation of agency rules.  This includes, but is not limited to:  authorized property which has been altered, damaged (except for electrical cords), is in excess of allowable amounts, or is out of place (e.g., a razor at recreation, magazine in the dining hall); any item not authorized for the offender to possess; and any item made from state property without authorization, spoiled food items and empty containers.

 

Claims

An offender should seek administrative remedy through the TDCJ Offender Grievance procedure for the alleged loss of, or damage to, property.  The offender should provide documentation, which establishes the merits of the claim (e.g., proof of ownership, proof of tangible value, and proof of TDCJ’s possession).  The claim will be investigated, a determination made as to whether the TDCJ is responsible for the lost or damaged property, and whether the claim should be denied or granted. Claims for lost or damaged offender property, that are determined to be the responsibility of the TDCJ, shall generally be paid at no more than $50 per claim.

 

 

Monitoring Requirements

TDCJ is committed to processing offender property in an efficient and responsible manner.  To this end, accountability and the handling of offender property will be monitored through the Operational Review process.   Also periodic inspections of offender housing areas will be conducted to ensure offenders possess only authorized property and that it is stored appropriately.  These inspections will be documented in accordance with policy.  Staff will complete property inventories each time an offender is transferred or placed into a new custody that requires some property to be stored.  Extensive training will be conducted throughout the summer months and on an ongoing basis to ensure that everyone is prepared and informed of what is expected of them.  The offender population is expected to do their part to assist staff during the implementation period -- as we promote a safe and secure environment in which to live and work.

 

            In conclusion, the notice of these new changes was posted in June 2002, to the offender population and to all staff.  The policy goes into effect SEPTEMBER 1st.  This will give you plenty of time in which to become compliant with the requirements of the policy. 

 

DL-June 21, 2002