Saturday, December 5, 2015

Infrastructure So Shot, the UN Condemned TDCJ


















By Lance Lowry (AFSCME Huntsville)

Huntsville, Texas - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice asked in their Legislative Appropriation Request (LAR) for 2016 and 2017 an additional $60 million in operating expenses for their aging infrastructure, that includes many facilities over 75 years old. 
 
Many infrastructural demands exist in TDCJ as a result of extremely old buildings, rushed construction in the 1990's, and prison units built as 20 year temporary structures.  Most of the sheet metal transfer facilities have outlived their 20 year life expectancy and state leadership has no plans to replace these structures.
 
 
TDCJ correctional officers and maintenance staff are overcome daily with maintenance problems rising out of the deteriorating conditions inside of Texas prisons that include busted sewer pipes, water outages, lack of proper lighting, broken security doors, broken ventilation systems, leaking roofs, clogged sinks, toilets not flushing, drafty buildings, and structural integrity issues. 
 
Maintenance deficiencies lead to health and safety concerns for TDCJ staff who are exposed to dangerous conditions such as exposure to black mold, raw sewage (containing hepatitis and other diseases), fall hazards, excessive noise from industrial fans (75-85dB), and extreme climate conditions. 

Most TDCJ prison buildings lack any type of sound insulation and the introduction of industrial fans due to the deaths from the 2007 heat wave have only compounded the problems.  Excessive noise and heat have made the Texas Department of Criminal Justice a living hell to work in.  Exposure to noise levels of 85 decibels or more for long periods of time can lead to hearing damage, according to the National Institute of Health.     

Conditions in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have deteriorated to the point the United Nations Committee Against Torture condemned the agency for its deficiencies concerning temperature, insufficient ventilation and humidity.   Unfortunately fans do little to relieve high humidity levels in prisons that are ripe with showers, toilets, sinks, and drains that only add to the humid conditions. 

Officers get little relief from the heat while being forced to wear stab resistant Kevlar vest, which offer no breathing room for hot climate conditions.  Even more concerning is the fact the Texas Department of Criminal Justice workforce is aging with over 1,992 correctional officers over the age of 60, according to staffing numbers from the Texas Auditor's Office for fiscal year 2015.  The agency requires no occupational physical examination prior to hiring applicants and only requires a physical agility test which is not administered by a licensed physician.  It comes with little surprise that on October 27, 2015 John Teel, a 44 year old TDCJ cadet, died while warming up for physical activity during his academy training in Amarillo.  Unfortunately this is not the first time a training death has occurred in TDCJ from physical activity.  Proper medical screening by a licensed physician needs to be required for new applicants prior to employment. 

Problems with Financing

Texas is far from being broke or lacking financial resources.  One major problem with state financing is they lack an internal mechanism for funding long term expenditures.  The Texas Constitution requires all appropriations to be paid for up front.  Texas, unlike the Federal Government, is known as a "pay as you go" state.  In order to finance any type of debt the voters must approve a constitutional amendment during a proposition election.  This leaves very little money left in the state's General Revenue Fund to pay for capital expenditures, such as buildings and cars. 







 
 
 
 



Lack of capital revenue explains why TDCJ has facilities that are now historical structures and vehicles with over 500,000 miles.  While no one in their right mind would spend $14,000 repairing a vehicle every two years, when a new vehicle would cost $20,000, TDCJ happily does it to appease the budget writers who are forced to balance the budget every two years. 

Solution

Budget writers need to look where money is available and methods for reducing unnecessary cost.  The price of incarceration is on the rise.  Texas needs to look for better solutions on reducing the number of people locked up.  Currently TDCJ operates the largest state prison system in the nation and if Texas were its own country we would have the largest per capita prison population in the world.   

Texas currently has a large pile of cash in retirement systems which is invested in everything from real estate to the stock market.  Public employees rely on secure investments and could gain from the retirement systems building newer prisons on TDCJ property that could be leased back to TDCJ for a secure profit.  Section 2167.051 of the Texas Government Code allows the state's retirement systems to lease commercial space to state agencies. 

http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Public_Safety_Criminal_Justice/Uniform_Cost/Criminal%20Justice%20Uniform%20Cost%20Report%20Fiscal%20Years%202010%20to%202012.pdf

 
 

Most System I facilities (Beto, Byrd, Central (TDCJ removed all offenders from the Central Unit in August 2011), Clemens, Coffield, Crain, Darrington, Eastham, Ellis, Estelle, Ferguson, Goree, Hilltop, Huntsville, Jester III, Luther, Mountain View, Pack, Powledge, Ramsey, Scott, Stringfellow, Terrell, Vance, and Wynne) are in need of serious maintenance.  These units are great candidates to be mothballed and replaced with smaller units since TDCJ can't find adequate staff to safely operate them.   

 

The transfer style facilities (Cotulla, Duncan, Ft. Stockton, Garza East, Garza West, Goodman, Gurney, Hamilton, Holliday, LeBlanc, Marlin, Middleton, C. Moore, Rudd, San Saba, Segovia, Tulia, and Ware) were built as temporary structures and have surpassed their life expectancy of 20 years.

Source: Texas Legislative Budget Board Uniform Cost Report 2015, Page 4.


Data indicates TDCJ is wasting substantial money on the System I (Pre-1987 Facilities), which have designs that require more staffing and have greater maintenance issues.  More energy efficient climate controlled facilities could replace these facilities with a cost savings.  Current data indicates the cost savings between a 1,000  Prototype prison and the older System I prisons is a daily cost of $7.83 per offender.  This translates into a cost savings of $234,008,946 per biennium if TDCJ were to build smaller more modern energy efficient replacement facilities that would have modern day climate control.  This savings is enough money to pay for the principal on the estimated $3.5 billion replacement cost for 40,940 beds. 

 

 
 
Here is a list of TDCJ prison units and there age:


Unit Name

CityType of UnitYear BuiltUnit Age

Capacity
Allred

Iowa ParkPrison199520



3,682
  
Beto
Tennessee ColonyPrison198035

3,471
Boyd
TeaguePrison199223

1,330
Briscoe
DilleyPrison199223

1,342
Byrd
HuntsvillePrison196451

1,365
Central (Closed)
SugarlandPrison1909106

Offline
Clemens
BrazoriaPrison1902113

1,215
Clements
AmarilloPrison199025

3,714
Coffield
Tennessee ColonyPrison196550

4,139
Cole
BonhamState Jail199520

900
Connally
KenedyPrison199520

2,848
Cotulla
CotullaTransfer199223

606
Dalhart
DalhartPrison199520

1,356
Daniel
SnyderPrison198926

1,342
Darrington
RosharonPrison191996

1,931
Dominguez
San AntonioState Jail 199520

2,276
Duncan
DibollTransfer199025

606
Eastham
LoveladyPrison191798

2,474
Ellis
HuntsvillePrison196550

2,404
Estelle
HuntsvillePrison198431

3,273
Ferguson
MidwayPrison196253

2,421
Formby
PlainviewState Jail 199619

1,100
Fort Stockton
Fort StocktonTransfer199025

606
Garza East
BeevilleTransfer199421

2,458
Garza West
BeevilleTransfer199421

2,278
Gatesville
GatesvillePrison1914101

2,115
Gist
BeaumontState Jail199421

2,276
Glossbrenner
San DiegoSAFP199520

612
Goodman
JasperTransfer199520

612
Goree
HuntsvillePrison1909106

1,321
Gurney
Tennessee ColonyTransfer199322

2,128
Halbert
BurnetSAFP199520

612
Hamilton
BryanPre-Release199520

1,166
Havins
BrownwoodState Jail199421

596
Henley
DaytonState Jail199520

576
Hightower
DaytonPrison199025

1,342
Hilltop
GatesvillePrison1888127

677
Hobby
MarlinPrison198926

1,342
Hodge
RuskMROP199520

989
Holliday
HuntsvilleTransfer199421

2,128
Hospital Galveston
GalvestonMedical198332

0
Hughes
GatesvillePrison199025

2,900
Huntsville
HuntsvillePrison1849166

1,705
Hutchins
DallasState Jail199520

2,276
Jester I
RichmondSAFP1885130

323
Jester III
RichmondPrison198233

1,131
Jester IV
RichmondPsychiatric199322

550
Johnston
WinnsboroSAFP199520

612
Jordan
PampaPrison199223

1,008
Kegans
HoustonState Jail199718

667
LeBlanc
BeaumontPre-Release199520

1,224
Lewis
WoodvillePrison199025

2,190
Lopez
EdinburgState Jail199718

1,100
Luther
NavasotaPrison198233

1,316
Lychner
HumbleState Jail199520

2,276
Lynaugh
Fort StocktonPrison199421

1,374
McConnell
BeevillePrison199223

2,900
Michael
Tennessee ColonyPrison198728

3,221
Middleton
AbileneTransfer199421

2,128
Montford
LubbockPsychiatric199421

950
Moore, C.
BonhamTransfer199520

1,224
Mt. View
GatesvillePrison196253

645
Murray
GatesvillePrison199520

1,313
Neal
AmarilloPrison199520

1,690
Ney
HondoState Jail199520

576
Pack
NavasotaPrison198233

1,478
Plane
DaytonState Jail199520

2,276
Polunsky
LivingstonPrison199322

2,900
Powledge
PalestinePrison198233

1,137
Ramsey I
RosharonPrison1908107

1,891
Roach
ChildressPrison199124

1,842
Robertson
AbilenePrison199223

2,900
Rudd
BrownfieldTransfer199520

612
Sanchez
El PasoState Jail199619

1,100
Sayle
BreckenridgeSAFP199421

632
Scott
AngletonPrison191996

1,130
Segovia
EdinburgPre-Release199520

1,224
Skyview
RuskPsychiatric198827

528
Smith
LamesaPrison199223

2,125
Stevenson
CueroPrison199421

1,342
Stiles
BeaumontPrison199322

2,897
Stringfellow
RosharonPrison1908107

1,212
Telford
New BostonPrison199520

2,832
Terrell, C.T.
RosharonPrison198332

1,603
Torres
HondoPrison199322

1,342
Travis Co.
AustinState Jail199718

1,161
Tulia
TuliaTransfer199025

606
Vance
RichmondPrison1885130

378
Wallace
Colorado CityPrison199421

1,502
Ware
Colorado CityTransfer199718

916
Wheeler
PlainviewState Jail199520

576
Woodman
GatesvilleState Jail199520

900
Wynne
HuntsvillePrison1883132

2,621
Young
DickensonMedical199619

310













1 comment: