Tribpedia: Texas Department Of Criminal Justice

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is the state agency responsible for managing state prisons and jails and the oversight of more than 150,000 offenders. The agency also supervises offenders released from prison on parole.

The board is composed of nine members who are appointed by the governor to staggered, six-year terms. The governor also designates one member as ...

Texas Is "On the Brink," Legislative Study Group Says

Texas' superlatives are nothing to brag about, according to the fifth edition of "Texas on the Brink," an annual review that ranks the state on dozens of factors ranging from health insurance to voter turnout. Despite having the highest birth rate, Texas has the worst rate of women with health insurance. While the state has the second-highest public school enrollment, it ranks last in the percentage of people 25 and older with a high school diploma. And though Texas has the highest percent of its population without health insurance, the state is 49th in per capita spending on Medicaid.

Amy Lynn Cowling's mother, Vicki Bankhead, talks about the death of her daughter in the office of the family's attorney, Jarom Tefteller.
Amy Lynn Cowling's mother, Vicki Bankhead, talks about the death of her daughter in the office of the family's attorney, Jarom Tefteller.

Woman's Death One of Many in Troubled Texas Jail

Amy Lynn Cowling was 33, she had three children and she became a grandmother a day after she died in an East Texas jail. Her death is just the most recent at the Gregg County Jail in Longview. Interviews and public documents reveal a troubled facility, where the staff turnover rate is unusually high and inmates report shoddy medical care. Criminal justice advocates say the facility is representative of problems that plague local jails statewide.

Texas Lawmakers Propose Raiding Auto Theft Fund

House and Senate budget writers have proposed closing the Texas Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority, which works to prevent and solve automobile theft and burglary and was created in 1991 after car thefts surged in Texas. The catch? They're not planning to stop collecting the fee you pay to keep it going. And some law enforcement officials think we'll also be paying in other ways. “It’s going to be like Mardi Gras in the streets with these car thieves,” says Lt. Tommy Hansen of the Galveston County Sheriff’s criminal investigations division. 

Texas Public Safety Agency Loses Track of Assets

Or a $74,000 piece of radio equipment? Or more than 150 handguns and rifles? Those are just a few of the nearly 1,500 items that the Texas Department of Public Safety reported stolen or lost in the last decade. Some of the assets might still be in the possession of DPS or possibly were sold, but the agency’s inventory system is so poor that it's hard to know what's actually missing.

Prison Phones Generate Less Money Than Hoped

Texas prisoners have made and received more than 4.7 million telephone calls and sent and received 1.8 million e-mails since 2009, when the state became the last in the nation to allow inmates phone and e-mail use. But all those calls and messages haven’t generated the amount of revenue the state expected. The issue is balancing greater access for prisoners and their friends and family and the need to ensure security. 

House and Senate bills filed from 11/8-1/4.
House and Senate bills filed from 11/8-1/4.

Word Cloud Shows Lege Priorities So Far

A new word cloud visualizes the bills filed so far according to their Texas Legislative Council assigned categories. After education, which accounts for more than a quarter of the bills, the top categories are elections, criminal procedure, vehicles and traffic, and taxation. 

A TT Interview With Prisons Expert Michele Deitch

The jail conditions expert and professor at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs on why maintaining treatment programs that keep offenders in their communities and reducing some of the harsh, long-term jail sentences often doled out in Texas' notoriously tough criminal justice system could be more cost-efficient and allow Texas to close prisons.

Gov. Rick Perry in an interview with Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith
Gov. Rick Perry in an interview with Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith

Per National Trend, Perry Stingy With Pardons

Pardoning has become a holiday tradition for governors and the president, who each year choose a fortunate few whose criminal records will get wiped clean. But experts say state and national leaders are granting fewer pardons these days — and doing it in a way that undermines a critical criminal justice process that allows rehabilitated offenders to lead normal lives. Gov. Rick Perry, for example, has granted only about 180 pardons since 2001. By contrast, Bill Clements issued more than 800 pardons during his eight-year tenure, while Mark White issued nearly 500 in four years.

British tourist Thomas Reeve was shot and killed in an Amarillo bar last fall by an armed robber, leaving behind an infant daughter. His parents’ efforts to claim financial assistance from the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Fund have been rebuffed because their son wasn’t a U.S. resident.
British tourist Thomas Reeve was shot and killed in an Amarillo bar last fall by an armed robber, leaving behind an infant daughter. His parents’ efforts to claim financial assistance from the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Fund have been rebuffed because their son wasn’t a U.S. resident.

Murdered British Tourist Doesn't Qualify for State Funds

British tourist Thomas Reeve's murder in an Amarillo bar last fall shattered his family, which has been unable to claim financial assistance from the state’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund because he wasn't a U.S. resident.

Marc Levin: The TT Interview

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The director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation on the criminal justice challenges lawmakers will face next session (and how they can get the greatest return for each dollar spent), why eliminating prisons could be the most cost-effective way to improve safety and why creating new criminal offenses is the wrong thing to do.

Marc Levin: The TT Interview

Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, talks with the Texas Tribune about how the upcoming state budget crunch will affect criminal justice.

Insiders on How the Budget Will Be Balanced

For this week's installment of our non-scientific survey of political and policy insiders on issues of the moment, we focused on the budget. Specifically, we asked how big the shortfall is going to be, how the Legislature will close the gap and which areas of the budget are most likely to be cut.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 11/15/10

Hu on the Perry-Bush rift, Ramshaw on the adult diaper wars, Ramsey's interview with conservative budget-slasher Arlene Wohlgemuth, Galbraith on the legislature's water agenda (maybe), M. Smith on Don McLeroy's last stand (maybe), Philpott on the end of earmarks (maybe), Hamilton on the merger of the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency (maybe), Aguilar on Mexicans seeking refuge from drug violence, Grissom on inadequate health care in county jails and my conversation with Houston Mayor Annise Parker: The best of our best from November 15 to 19, 2010.

Report: Healthier Prisons, Healthier Communities

Spending more to improve prison mental and physical health care could improve public health in the free world, according to findings of researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the University of Oxford in England.

Hundreds Die of Illnesses in County Jails

More than 280 inmates in county jails died from illnesses while in custody over a four-and-a-half-year period, according to data provided by the Texas attorney general and analyzed by The Texas Tribune. Many died of heart conditions, some of cancer or liver and kidney problems and others of afflictions ranging from AIDS to seizure disorders and pneumonia. There are no state standards for health care in county jails, but criminal justice advocates and correctional facility experts say the large number of illness-related deaths prove they're needed.

Elderly, Ill Sex Offender Sues Perry Over Monitor

Marvin Brown is a convicted sex offender who was released from jail in 1999. Today, he's ill and elderly, suffering from diabetes, stage-four renal disease and congestive heart failure. He's had three mini-strokes in the last two months alone. On good days, he walks with a cane. Other times, he gets around with a walker or an electric wheelchair. But according to Gov. Rick Perry, he poses such a threat to society that he has to wear an ankle bracelet so he can be continuously monitored. Brown says that's a violation of his civil rights, and on Tuesday he filed suit in federal court. "They can't give you freedom and then take it away," he says.