Texas Department of Criminal Justice
|Texas Department of Criminal Justice|
|Logo of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.|
|Annual budget||$2.5 billion USD (2006)|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Operations jurisdiction*||State of Texas, USA|
|Map of Texas Department of Criminal Justice's jurisdiction.|
|Size||261,797 square miles (678,050 km2)|
|Population||24,326,974 (2008 est.)|
|Headquarters||BOT Complex, Huntsville|
|Texas Department of Criminal Justice Website|
|* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.|
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is a department of the government of the U.S. state of Texas. The TDCJ is responsible for statewide criminal justice for adult offenders, including managing offenders in state prisons, state jails and private correctional facilities, funding and certain oversight of community supervision, and supervision of offenders released from prison on parole or mandatory supervision. The TDCJ operates the largest prison system in the United States.
In 1848, the Texas Legislature passed "An Act to Establish a State Penitentiary", which created an oversight board to manage the treatment of convicts and administration of the penitentiaries. Land was acquired in Huntsville and Rusk for later facilities.
The prison system began as a single institution, located in Huntsville. A second prison facility, Rusk Penitentiary, began receiving convicts in January 1883. Before the Ruiz v. Estelle court case, the Texas Department of Corrections had 18 units, including 16 for males and 2 for females.
Various administrative changes where the organization of the managing board of the department occurred over the next one hundred years.
In 1921 George W. Dixon of The Prison Journal published a report on the Texas Prison System facilities. His article stated that the prisons were among the most "brutal" in the world. Dixon said that the prisons featured corporal punishment such as whipping, beatings, and isolation.
In 1989, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Board of Criminal Justice were created. The Board is composed of nine members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate to six-year overlapping terms. This new agency absorbed the functions of three state agencies; the Texas Department of Corrections, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Texas Adult Probation Commission.
In the 1980s the government of Texas began building more prisons. During that decade impoverished rural communities saw the prisons as a boon as they provided jobs.
In 1987 the Texas State Board of Corrections voted to build two new 2,250 inmate maximum security prisons in Gatesville and Amarillo and several 1,000 inmate medium security prisons in Liberty County, Marlin, Snyder, and Woodville. The TDC units in Amarillo and Snyder were the first ones located outside of Central Texas and East Texas.
According to a December 2007 survey of prisoners from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, five TDCJ units, Allred Unit, Clemens Unit, Coffield Unit, Estelle Unit, and Mountain View Unit, were among those in the United States with the highest numbers of reported prison rape cases in the year 2006 . In 2007 the TDCJ reported that there were a total of 234 reported sexual assaults in its prisons. Michelle Lyons, the TDCJ spokesperson, said "The actual reports we have are not consistent with the results in the survey. But because it's anonymous, there's no way for us to verify that additional number."
In 2008 the TDCJ planned to install cell phone jamming devices at its units, but encountered resistance from cell phone companies.
Current Board Members
- Oliver J.Bell (chairman)
- Tom Mechler (vice-chairman)
- Leopoldo "Leo" Vasquez III (secretary)
- Eric Gambrell
- Judge Lawrence 'Larry' Gist
- Carmen Villanueva-Hiles
The department encompasses the following major divisions:
- Correctional Institutions Division
- Parole Division
- Community Justice Assistance Division
Correctional Institutions Division
The Correctional Institutions (CI) Division, which operates secure correctional facilities for adults, has its headquarters in the BOT Complex in Huntsville. TDCJ-CID, formed in 2003, was a merger of the Institutions Division, the Operations Division, the Private Facilities Division, and the State Jail Division.
The division operates prisons, which are facilities for people convicted of capital offenses and people convicted of first, second, and third degree felony offenses, and state jails, facilities for people convicted of state jail felony offenses. Before the 2003 formation of the Correctional Institutions Division, the Institutional Division operated prisons and the State Jail Division (TDCJ-SJD) operated state jails. As of 2010, of the counties in Texas, the five with the highest numbers of state prisons and jails were Walker, Brazoria and Coryell (tie), and Anderson and Liberty (tie).
Most of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons are located in the historic cotton slavery belt around the former location of Stephen F. Austin's colony. Counties that have housed adult correctional facilities, such as Brazoria, Fort Bend, Polk, and Walker, once had slave majority populations. Many of the largest prison farms and prison properties in the state, including Goree Unit, the Jester units, Polunsky Unit, the Ramsey units, and Wynne Unit, are located in those counties. The state of Texas began building adult prisons outside of the historic cotton belt in the 1980s.
Some units have employee housing; most employee housing was constructed prior to the TDCJ's early to mid-1990s prison expansion. As of 2008, of the 22 units that are staffed below 80% of their employee capacities, eight (36%) of the units have officers' quarters. As of that year the TDCJ requested for funding from the Texas Legislature for three 80-bed officers' quarters to be built next to three prisons that the agency considers to be "critically staffed."
An employee who obtains a residence in a state-owned house on or after September 1, 1997 pays $50 per month during the fiscal year of 1998 and, for each subsequent year, 20% of the fair market rental valuation of the property. A resident of state-owned bachelor officers' quarters (BQQ) or a renter of a state-owned mobile home lot pays $50 per month.
The Texas Prison System purchased its first prison farm in 1885. The oldest TDCJ units still in operation, originally established between 1849 and 1933, include Huntsville Unit (1849), Wynne Unit (1883), Jester I Unit (1885, brick building in 1932), Vance (Harlem/Jester II) Unit (1885, brick building in 1933), Clemens Unit (1893), Ramsey (I) Unit (1908), Stringfellow (Ramsey II) Unit (1908), Central Unit (1909, rebuilt in 1932), Goree Unit (1907), Darrington Unit (1917), Eastham Unit (1917), and Scott (Retrieve) Unit (1919).
In addition, the Hilltop Unit uses buildings from the former Gatesville State School (a juvenile correctional facility), making the Hilltop Unit's prison facility the third oldest correctional facility still-used in Texas after the Huntsville and Jester I. The largest TDCJ prison is the Coffield Unit, with a capacity of 4,021 inmates. The largest female prison is the Christina Crain Unit, with a capacity of 2,013 inmates.
Originally many Texas prison farms had no cells; the prisoners were housed in racially segregated dormitory units referred to as "tanks." In the 1960s the Texas Prison System began referring to the prisons as "units." Chad R. Trulson and James W. Marquart, authors of First Available Cell: Desegregation of the Texas Prison System, said that the word unit was a euphemism that probably was intended to refer to progressive penal practices, professionalism, and a distancing from a legacy of racism.
State jails house inmates convicted of state jail felony offenses, which include lower level assault and drug, family, and property offenses. In addition the Texas Board of Criminal Justice designated state jails as transfer units for individuals who are bound for prisons. Each individual in a state jail who is convicted of a state jail offense may not be held for longer than two years, nor may he or she be held for shorter than seventy-five days. Individuals may not parole or have mandatory supervision release from state jails.
The state jail felony classification was created in 1993 as part of a reformation of sentencing laws. In July 1998 Texas had 18 state jails (including six privately operated facilities) with 9,023 state jail felons and 14,940 people awaiting transfer to prisons. During that year 53.3% of state jail felons were convicted of possession or delivery of a controlled substance. As of 1998 85% of the state jail felons had prior arrest records, and 58% of the state jail felons had previously never been incarcerated.
The TDCJ operates three psychiatric units, including Jester IV Unit, Skyview Unit, and the John Montford Psychiatric Unit. As of March 2013, the units are at capacity. Brandi Grissom of the Texas Monthly said "So acute is the need for psychiatric prisoners that if Texas built a fourth facility, it would be full as soon as it opened."
Intake and unit assignment
The State Classification Committee (SCC) and designated Classification and Records Office (CRO) staff members assign each institutional prisoner to his or her first unit after the prisoner completes his or her tests and interviews; offenders are not allowed to choose their units of assignment. The state assigns each state jail offender to the unit closest to his or her county.
Death row offenders and offenders with life imprisonment without parole enter the TDCJ system through two points; men enter through the Byrd Unit in Huntsville, and women enter through the Reception Center in Christina Crain Unit, Gatesville. From there, inmates with life without parole sentences go on to their assigned facilities. Male death row offenders go on to the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, and female death row offenders go on to the Mountain View Unit.
The prisoner transportation network of the TDCJ is headquartered in Huntsville. As of 2005 the network has 326 employees, including 319 uniformed employees. The TDCJ's regional prisoner transportation hubs are located in Abilene, Amarillo, Beeville, Huntsville, Palestine, and Rosharon. Of the transportation hubs, the Central Region hub in Huntsville transports the largest number of prisoners to the greatest number of units. The Abilene hub controls the largest land area.
Prisoners in the general population are seated together, with prisoners handcuffed in pairs. Prisoners in administrative segregation and prisoners under death sentences are seated individually; various restraints, including belly chains and leg irons, are placed on those prisoners. Each prisoner transport vehicle has two urinals and two water dispensers. As of 2005 all of the transportation vans and half of the chain buses have air conditioning.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has the Offender Orientation Handbook, its orientation guidebook explaining the rules prisoners are required to follow, in English and Spanish on its website. Prisoners receive formal orientations and copies of the manual after the prisoners undergo initial processing. The manual mostly contains numbered and subnumbered rules which occupy 111 pages, and the handbook is intended to establish governance over all aspects of prison life. The prison rule system is modeled on the free-world penal system, but does not have judicial review and rights. As years passed, the amount of regulations increased due to court orders, incidents, and managerial initiative.
Robert Perkinson, author of Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire, said that the Offender Orientation Handbook "encapsulates the weary institutional dream of imposing perfect discipline on potential chaos" and that the "sweeping and tedious rules" "cover a bewildering range of restrictions and obligations." As examples Perkinson referred to the "no fighting," "offenders will brush their teeth daily," and "horseplay is prohibited," which he refers to, respectively, as "sensible," "well meaning," and a "catchall." Perkinson said that in practice "totalitarian order" does not occur in the prison because the "churlish" inmates do not have the inclination and "often," the reading ability to follow the "finer dictates" of the handbook, and the prison guards, "moderately trained, high-turnover stiffs earning Waffle House wages," do not have the energy and time to enforce the rules strictly. According to Perkinson, the handbook is never consistently or fully enforced, but that the handbook is invoked whenever a daily conflict occurs.
In case of an escalated dispute, officers submit a "case" and an inmate or multiple inmates appear in front of a court described by Perkinson as "makeshift." Perkinson explains that the prison courts "have all of the trappings of adversarial justice," including a defense counsel who is a prison guard appointed by a presiding major, physical evidence, and witnesses, due to several lapsed federal court orders. According to Perkinson, "the house rarely loses." Jorge Renaud, a man who served as a prisoner in Texas's state prisons, said usually when an inmate is charged with a prison offense, the sole question to be determined is the severity of the punishment given to the inmate.
Smoking is prohibited at all TDCJ facilities. On November 18, 1994, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice voted to ban smoking at all TDCJ facilities, beginning on March 1, 1995. The Holliday Unit in Huntsville already had a smoking ban in place prior to the TDCJ system-wide ban.
Offender dress code
Offenders in all TDCJ units wear uniforms consisting of cotton white pullover shirts and white elastic trousers. The TDCJ requires prisoners to wear uniforms so they can easily be identified, so the prisoners can become depersonalized, and so prison guards do not form associations and give preferential treatment to prisoners. The TDCJ retired clothing with belts and buttons and introduced trousers with expandable waists. Shoes worn by prisoners may be issued by the state or purchased from the commissary. Male prisoners must be clean-shaven, and their hair is required to be trimmed the backs of their heads and necks. TDCJ-CID says that "Female offenders will not have extreme haircuts." Prisoners must have hair cut around their ears.
Robert Perkinson, author of Texas Tough, states that the uniforms make prisoners "look like shapeless hospital orderlies." Jorge Renaud, a former prisoner, states that the uniforms are part of the prison system's depersonalization process.
The TDCJ reviews books to determine whether they are appropriate for prisoners. In 2010 the agency disclosed that it reviewed 89,795 books, with 40,285 authors represented. The agency did not disclose how many of those books were banned. The system's banned list includes some novels that were written by National Book Award winners, Nobel laureates, and Pulitzer Prize winners and some books of paintings made by famous artists. The Austin American-Statesman and the Houston Press compiled lists of some books that have been banned by the TDCJ.
The TDCJ uses regional release centers for male prisoners. Most male prisoners are released to be closer to their counties of conviction, approved release counties, and/or residences. Male prisoners who have detainers, are classified as sex offenders, have electronic monitoring imposed by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and/or have certain special conditions of the Super Intensive Supervision Program (SISP) are released from Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, regardless of their counties of conviction, residences, and/or approved release counties.
Regional release facilities for men include the Huntsville Unit, the William P. Clements Jr. Unit near Amarillo; the Hutchins State Jail in Hutchins, near Dallas; the French M. Robertson Unit in Abilene; and the William G. McConnell Unit near Beeville. All female prisoners who are not state jail prisoners or Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFPF) prisoners are released from the Christina Crain Unit (formerly the Gatesville Unit) in Gatesville. Rick Thaler, the director of the Correctional Institutions Division, predicted in 2010 that the Huntsville Unit, which serves as the regional release center for Greater Houston, would remain the TDCJ's largest release center despite the decrease of traffic of released prisoners.
State jail offenders are released from their units of assignment. All people released receive a set of non-prison clothing and a bus voucher. State jail offenders receive a voucher to their counties of conviction. Prison offenders receive $50 upon their release and another $50 after reporting to their parole officers. Released state jail offenders do not receive money. Inmates in Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facilities are also directly released.
History of prisoner release
Prior to September 2010, most male prison offenders were released from the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville. Throughout the Huntsville Unit's history, 90% of the male prison offenders in the TDCJ were released from the Huntsville Unit. House Bill 2289 by Jerry Madden, which created the regional release system, specified that prisoners will not be regionally released if the TDCJ believes that it is not in the best interest of the prisoner or that regional release of that prisoner would threaten the safety of the public. According to the bill, the implementation date was September 1, 2010. Male inmates with health and mental health difficulties and sex offenders are still universally released from Huntsville.
The TDCJ houses male death row inmates in the Polunsky Unit and female death row inmates in the Mountain View Unit. The Huntsville Unit is the location of the state of Texas execution chamber. The Polunsky death row has about 290 prisoners. As of March 2013 eight male death row prisoners are housed in Jester IV Unit, a psychiatric unit, instead of Polunsky.
The University of Texas Medical Branch provides health care to offenders in the eastern, northern, and southern sections of Texas. The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center provides health care to offenders in the western part of Texas. In addition private corporations provide health care services. Hospitalized offenders may go to the Hospital Galveston Unit in Galveston, the Montford Unit in unincorporated Lubbock County, or area hospitals.
In 1993 Texas State Comptroller John Sharp proposed that the TDCJ end its healthcare department and transfer responsibilities to the universities in order to reduce costs. During that time the majority of TDCJ prison units were in south and east Texas, and UTMB was to provide for the care of 80% of the managed care for TDCJ, while Texas Tech was to provide the remaining 20%. In September 1994 UTMB and Texas Tech took responsibility of 3,000 health care workers and a $270 million budget.
In 2011 the board considered ending its contract with UTMB and having regional hospitals provide care for prisoners.
Incarceration of women
The Correctional Institutions Division has eight main facilities, including five prisons and three state jails, that house women; Five of the women's units, including four prisons and one state jail, are in the City of Gatesville. Jorge Renaud, author of Behind the Walls: A Guide for Family and Friends of Texas Inmates, said that female prisoners in the TDCJ generally "undergo the same tribulations, are affected by the same policies, must adhere to the same regulations and are treated the same by TDCJ staff."
Originally women were housed in the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville. Beginning in 1883 women were housed in the Johnson Farm, a privately owned cotton plantation near Huntsville. After Governor of Texas Thomas Mitchell Campbell took office in January 1907, he moved the women from Johnson to the Eastham Farm (now Eastham Unit) to try to protect women from predatory prison guards.
For a period in the early 20th century Eastham housed women before a sexual abuse scandal caused the Texas prison system to move women closer to Huntsville. Before the prisons in Gatesville opened in the 1980s, women in the Texas prison system were housed in the Goree Unit in Huntsville.
Correctional officer training
The TDCJ maintains training academies in Beeville, Gatesville, Huntsville, Palestine, Plainview, and Rosharon. Trainees who do not live within a commuting distance to the training academies take state-owned housing, only if there is room available.
The TDCJ Parole Division supervises released offenders who are on parole, inmates in the pre-parole transfer program, and inmates in the work program. The division also investigates proposed parole plans from inmates, tracks parole eligible cases, and submits cases to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The division does not make decisions on whether inmates should be released or whether paroles should be revoked. The TDCJ Parole Division has its central office in Austin.
The parole division contracts with several agencies which operate halfway houses. Organizations that contract with the TDCJ include GEO Group (previously Cornell Corrections), Southern Corrections, Wayback House, E.P. Horizon Management, L.L.C., and Avalon. As of 2004 there are nine halfway houses in Texas. According to state law, former prisoners must be paroled to their counties of conviction, usually their home counties, if those counties have acceptable halfway housing facilities available. Most counties do not have such facilities available. As of 2004, three facilities accept sex offenders and parolees from other countries; they are the halfway houses in Beaumont, El Paso County, and Houston.
The Ben A. Reid Community Corrections Center, a halfway house operated by GEO and previously operated by Cornell, is located in the former Southern Bible College facility in Houston. As of 2004 the facility housed almost 400 parolees; 224 of them were registered sex offenders. Because of aspects of state law and because of a shortage of halfway houses, almost two thirds of the sex offenders were from outside of Harris County. Reid is the largest of the three halfway houses that take sex offenders and out of county parolees, so Reid gets a significant number of paroled sex offenders.
Cornell operates a halfway house in Beaumont, which as of 2004 houses 170 people. Horizon Management, L.L.C. operates the El Paso Facility in unincorporated El Paso County, which houses 165 people. In addition, Wayback House operates the Wayback House in Dallas, E.P. Southern Corrections operates the Austin Transition Center in Austin, and Avalon operates the Fort Worth Transitional Center in Fort Worth.
Community Justice Assistance Division
The Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD) supervises adults who are on probation. In 1989 the 71st Texas Legislature began using the term "community supervision" in place of the term "adult probation." CJAD has its central office in the Price Daniel, Sr. Building in Downtown Austin.
The Human Resources Division serves the company. As of August 23, 2010, the Human Resources Headquarters (HRHQ) moved to Suite 600 of 2 Financial Plaza in Huntsville. The division was located at 3009 Texas State Highway 30 West.
The Rehabilitation Divisions Program (RPD) operates programs to rehabilitate prisoners. The division is headquartered in Huntsville.
Texas Correctional Industries (TCI), a division of the TDCJ, was established in 1963 when the Prison Made Goods Act, Texas Senate Bill 338, passed. The division manages the production of prisoner-made products.
Windham School District
The Windham School District provides offenders of the TDCJ with educational services. The district was created in 1969 to provide adult education in Texas prisons. The district was the first school system of its size to be established within a statewide prison system. Windham is one of the largest correctional education systems in the United States, providing educational programs and services in most TDCJ facilities. The school district is a separate and distinct organization from the TDCJ.
Since the inception of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 59 officers have died in the line of duty.
The TDCJ has its headquarters in Huntsville. The administrative facility, known as the BOT Complex (for its former owner, see below), is located at Spur 59 off Texas Highway 75 North. The complex also faces Interstate 45. The complex includes the Central Region Warehouse and the Huntsville Prison Store. The state of Texas prison system had been headquartered in Huntsville since Texas's founding as a republic, and the TDCJ is the only major state agency not headquartered in Austin, the state capital.
The complex was originally owned by Brown Oil Tools, Inc. (BOT), a subsidiary of Baker Hughes. Completed in 1981, the 600,000-square-foot (56,000 m2) plant had a price tag of $9 million. The plant was built to replace the company's Houston plant. The plant employed 200 people. In 1987 Baker Hughes announced that it would close the plant and consolidate its operations to facilities in Houston; the company said that the Huntsville facility's large capacity caused it to be less efficient at lower operating levels. Judith Crown of the Houston Chronicle described the plant as "relatively modern" in 1987. TDCJ purchased the BOT Complex in 1989.
Historically the Huntsville Unit served as the administrative headquarters of the Texas Prison System; the superintendent and the other executive officers worked in the prison, and all of the central offices of the system's departments and all of the permanent records were located in the prison.
In the two decades leading to 2011, many proposals were placed in the Texas Legislature to move the TDCJ headquarters to Austin. One reason why the proposals failed was because Huntsville-area prison officials opposed the move. In the 1990s John Whitmire, a member of the Texas Senate, made an effort to have the TDCJ headquarters moved. During the last state legislative session before September 1, 2011, Texas House of Representatives member Jerry Madden decided not to ask for the TDCJ headquarters to the moved to Austin.
In August 2011 Whitmire told the Austin American Statesman that he would bring up the idea of moving the TDCJ headquarters to Austin during the next legislative session. Whitmire argued that while a Huntsville headquarters made sense when all of the prison units were in east and southern Texas, since the TDCJ now has facilities around the entire state, the TDCJ headquarters should be consolidated in Austin. Steve Ogden, another state senator, said that a headquarters move is "not going to happen while I’m in office."
The Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery, the state's main prison cemetery, is the place where prisoners not claimed by their families are buried. It is located on 22 acres (8.9 ha) of land on a hill, 1 mile (1.6 km) from the Huntsville Unit and in proximity to Sam Houston State University. It is the largest prison cemetery in the State of Texas. Byrd's first prisoners were interred there in the mid-1800s, and the prison agencies of Texas have maintained the cemetery since then.
The cemetery's current name derives from Joe Byrd, an assistant warden at the Huntsville Unit who, in the 1960s, helped restore and clean the cemetery. As of 2011, each burial has the presence of either the Huntsville Unit warden or a deputy of the Huntsville Unit warden. Prisoners serve as pallbearers, chisel names in headstones, and dig graves using shovels and backhoes.
As of 2012 TDCJ officials confirmed that the cemetery includes remains of 2,100 prisoners. Franklin T. Wilson, an assistant professor of criminology at Indiana State University, photographed all of the graves and concluded that there are over 3,000 graves at the cemetery. Each year, about 100 prisoners are buried at the cemetery, and each burial has a cost of about $2,000. On many occasions, the prisoner's relatives do not attend the funeral.
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- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
- Windham School District
- Texas Prison Museum
- Texas Rehabilitation Programs
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