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House Interim Committee on Corrections

PRIVATE PRISON INDUSTRIES
Charge

Study the prison industries program regarding private sector employment of inmates.
Background

Recidivism for prisoners released in 1991 was 48 percent. Research suggests that employment of offenders reduces recidivism rates. Recent legislation has provided a program to allow and encourage the employment of incarcerated individuals. Besides the positive effects on recidivism, the program has a potential to reduce the burden of incarceration costs paid by taxpayers by utilizing a portion of an inmate's wages to reimburse the state. The comptroller, in his 1994 Texas Performance Review, called for the expansion of the program from 150 to 6,000 inmates. This could create over $30 million for the state. However, there is opposition to the program from labor organizations concerned that it may create an unfair competitive advantage for the industries in the program.
Recommendations

  • Create a Private Sector Prison Industries Oversight Authority with broad representation of interested parties, to approve, certify and oversee private section prison industries programs.

  • Amend Article 42.18, Sec. 8A, Code of Criminal Procedure, to provide that if an inmate is able to arrange for gainful employment by an industry partner or affiliate upon release, the state should arrange for an expedited waiver process to allow them to be paroled to a county other than their county of origin.

  • Amend Sec. 497.051, Government Code, to allow up to 3,000 jobs under the state certified Prison Industry Enhancement program (PIE).

  • Review existing PIE authority language in state statute and make changes to better manage the process of documenting the state's compliance with federal laws regarding PIE, and to conform state language to federal law.

  • Encourage the development of additional pilot programs, including union apprenticeship training programs within a PIE certified work facility.

  • Resolve definitions of prevailing wages and displacement of local workers, and determine from the Bureau of Justice Assistance what other coverages are equivalent to workers' compensation.

  • Recommend defining and gathering data which will give outcome measures on recidivism rates for the program which are consistent with similar outcome measures on recidivism for other criminal justice programs.

    SENTENCING PRACTICES
    Charge

    Review the need for changes in sentencing practices, the revocation of probation, and the use of deferred adjudication.
    Background

    During the 72nd Legislature legislation was enacted that committed the state to pay countries for backlogged felons, and to accept them into the Institutional Division with 45 days of sentencing, beginning on September 1, 1995. During the 73rd Legislature, legislation was enacted that stiffened penalties for violent offenders and child molesters and created a system of state jails for nonviolent offenders. The 74th Legislature enacted additional legislation to address some of the implementation problems of the state jail system. While enacting legislation to "get tough on crime," the state was also implementing the largest prison construction program in the country. Since January 1991, prison capacity has increased from 52,253 to 144,328.
    Recommendation

  • Monitor all legislation that pertains to changes in the Penal Code, and the effect that these changes will have on prison capacity.

    MANAGED HEALTH CARE
    Charge

    Study the continuing implementation of the managed health care system within the prison system. Consider how telemedicine networks developed for the prison system might benefit local citizens.
    Background

    Medical costs in the U.S. are rapidly and uncontrollably growing. Over the last decade, the medical cost for inmates within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice were also increasing at a rapid rate. In response, the 73rd Legislature enacted S.B. 387, which established a Managed Health Care Advisory Committee to develop a managed health care plan for inmates in Texas Department Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which created a partnership among TDCJ, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The committee established a managed health care network of physicians and hospitals to provide service to TDCJ offenders. During the 74th Legislature, law was enacted which made minor changes to the implementing statute and extended the authority of the committee to contract with other jurisdictions. The results are encouraging: in the 1994-1995 biennium, health costs per inmate dropped nearly 10 percent. Projections for the current biennium suggest that Texas taxpayers will save about $67.8 million with the switch to a managed system.
    Findings and Recommendations

  • The partnership is efficiently managing the health care needs of the state prison system.

  • The use of correctional telemedicine has resulted in fewer offender transports and, therefore, reduced security escort requirements and increased public safety. Participants in telemedicine consultations have been satisfied with the health care received and have had no major complaints.

  • The committee encourages the universities to continue to expand their telemedicine facilities and to explore opportunities to aid the local communities whenever practical and feasible.

    OVERSIGHT
    Charge

    Conduct active oversight of agencies under the committee's jurisdiction.
    Background

    The following state agencies are under the Committee on Corrections' jurisdiction: the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Texas Youth Commission, the Council on Sex Offender Treatment, the Texas Council on Offenders with Mental Impairments, and the Criminal Justice Policy Council.
    Recommendations

    None.