Monday, February 28, 2011

TDCJ Makes Major Cuts in Budget

The $40 million reduction for the 2011 fiscal year will cause major setbacks in the TDCJ, Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Ways in which the Senate and House plan to make cutbacks are through eliminating 400 agency positions and the Project ROI plan. According to the agency, $3.1 million comes from 400 agency positions and $1.5 million comes from Project ROI. Project ROI, Re-Integration of Inmates, helps inmate’s transition from prison life to the outside world.

The TDCJ is also changing the prisoner’s meal plan to save money. The prisoners will receive powder milk as a substitute for milk cartoons, and substitute slice bread for hamburger and hotdog buns. Dessert will be lessened to one weekly instead of two.

These reductions will make an impact, but the Senate Criminal Justice Committee has concerns over the cuts. On the 'My San Antonio' blog, John Whitmire, Chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, said, “What people have to understand is that criminal justice is a system; it’s not just about locking people up, it’s about what you do while you have them. Some of these proposed cuts and savings will lead to increased spending later because it will increase the recidivism rate… and often times there will be another victim involved.”

Mike Gross, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, said, “This move by the agency will have a big impact on public safety in Texas.” Among other points, he said the elimination of Project RIO “just means we’ll be seeing more offenders end back up in prison.”

The elimination of Project ROI has been the subject of concern with many employees and advocates of the TDCJ. Many feel that this reduction will cost the state more money in the long run. With not properly educating and assisting inmates to the return into society, the TDCJ will potentially see these people re-enter the system.

The ‘Grits for Breakfast’ blog states, “What's missing is a plan from any key legislative leader so far to counter the agency's Maximum Prisons approach. Texas legislative sessions are short and we're nearly a third of the way through this one. If the only plan on the table for budget reduction says "cut reentry and community supervision first," when push comes to shove that's what'll be implemented.” Even though these cuts are significant, there has been no counter plan. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee has made a stance on the saving Project ROI, but so far is not taken action.

We will have to see within the upcoming weeks on how the agency’s plan may be challenged to save the re-entry program.

-Caroline Cardenas-

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