Tribpedia: Texas Department Of Criminal Justice

Tribpedia

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 ...

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Youth Advocates Worry Cuts Will Put More in Prison

The proposed state budgets would cut $95.6 million from the Texas Youth Commission budget in 2012-2013 and lawmakers are eying reductions in parole services, which could lead to fewer staffers and parole offices. Some youth advocates worry the cuts will mean more youths spending more time behind bars and more of them committing crimes as adults.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 2/14/11

Ramsey, Stiles, Aguilar and Murphy makes sense of the Census data (and Stiles and Murphy interactively map the population change by county), Grissom on possible job cuts for prison chaplains, Ramshaw on whether cash-strapped Texas should be in the cancer business, Philpott on if we should dip into the Rainy Day Fund, Hamilton on the digital age dawning at Abilene Christian University, C. Smith on the concealed carry debate at community colleges, Galbraith on the fallout from the rolling blackouts, Ramsey on Texas vs. Amazon.com and M. Smith on Perry vs. Doggett: The best of our best content from Feb. 14 to 18, 2011.

Prison chaplains meet at 1st Baptist church before heading to Texas Capitol to speak to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Prison chaplains meet at 1st Baptist church before heading to Texas Capitol to speak to lawmakers on Wednesday.

Texas Prison Chaplains Pray, Plead for Funds

Chaplains have been a part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since at least 1910, providing spiritual guidance and programs for inmates and for guards who have the stressful job of managing them. Under the proposed House budget, the state's $4.8 million prison chaplaincy program would be cut to zero, and all 121 prison chaplains in Texas would lose their jobs.

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.