TBCJ Approves Agency's 2023 Operating Budget, Legislative Appropriations Request for 2024-25 Biennium
On August 26th, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice unanimously approved the agency’s 2023 Operating Budget as well as the upcoming appropriations request the agency will submit to the legislature for the 2024-25 biennium.
As detailed in the below summary, the Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) includes the agency’s base proposal and exceptional items. These exceptional item requests would provide funding for critical areas across the entire criminal justice system, and includes, but not limited to:
- pay increases for parole officers, support and administrative staff, correctional managed healthcare staff, and community supervision officers and staff across the state
- maintain community supervision programs
- critical upgrades to infrastructure, vehicles, and security equipment
- additional safeguards against cybersecurity attacks
As we head towards the next legislative session, the agency will work over the next several months to convey the importance of this funding to lawmakers by highlighting the hard work and dedication of our officers and staff, the vital role our programming plays in the success of those incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, and our commitment to public safety and sound correctional management.
FY 2024-25 Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR)
The budget request for the 2024-25 biennium was developed in a manner consistent with instructions from State leadership, which directs agencies’ baseline request for the 2024-25 biennium not to exceed the 2022-23 general revenue-related funding levels. Additionally, the LBB recently updated inmate population projections used by the agency in preparing the 2024-25 LAR. During the 2024-25 biennium, these projections indicate slight increases to the incarcerated inmate population, number of felony probationers, and number of supervised parolees, and a decrease in supervised misdemeanants.
TDCJ’s LAR also includes funding requests above the baseline budget for exceptional items of policy and/or operational significance. A considerable portion of this request for additional appropriations deals directly with basic operational issues related to critical staffing requirements, infrastructure needs, and inmate health care. Several of the requested items are one-time expenses. Each exceptional item is fundamentally important to the operations of the agency and included in the list below.
- Correctional officer staffing is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) most significant operational issue. Historically, the agency has experienced fluctuations in staffing during economic surges and due to competing employment opportunities, however over the past 10 years, the agency has seen a steady increase in staff vacancies. In February 2022, the agency reached an all-time high vacancy of 8,043 correctional officers. In coordination with and approval of State Leadership, a substantial Correctional Officer salary increase (15%) was implemented to address the recruitment and retention of these critical agency positions. Ranking Officers and Correctional Laundry and Food Service Managers also received similar salary increases. Since April 2022, the agency has seen promising improvements in staffing levels due to the impact of this pay increase. To continue to address this significant operational challenge, continued funding for this pay raise is necessary.
- One of the core focuses of the agency continues to be the supervision of inmates released to supervision which supports the agency’s primary mission of providing public safety. Parole Officer attrition was almost 24% for FY 2021. A substantial and comprehensive Parole Officer salary increase will continue to address recruitment and retention of these critical agency positions. The Parole Officers would receive a 15% increase, with the starting salary increasing from $41,704 to $47,960. Ranking Parole Officers would also receive similar salary increases.
- While the majority of positions within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are correctional officers, the agency also employs unit support staff such as classification and maintenance positions, field and regional operations such as agriculture and transportation, and administrative staff such as human resources and information technology. These dedicated men and women perform critical support functions throughout the state that maintain the agency’s essential operations. While the agency has been fortunate to receive targeted pay increases for correctional staff over the years, other agency staff have not received a pay increase in many years. With the rising cost of inflation and other cost of living increases, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain qualified and talented staff. The agency is facing significant staffing challenges that impact our critical operations. As of May 31, 2022, the agency had a vacancy rate of 21% for positions other than correctional officers and parole officers. This funding request would provide a 10% pay increase to all non-correctional/non-parole officer staff located on correctional facilities, parole offices, and administrative offices across the state.
- According to university providers, additional funding of $285.8 million is critical to ensure effective overall quality of health care within the system and deliver the level of services required. Of this amount, an estimated $181.4 million is required to bring the FY 2024-25 funding to the projected levels of expense incurred to maintain the delivery of services currently provided. Funding less than this level, which considers the rising costs of health care, could require reduction of services. Additionally, the university providers are seeking to replace aging capital equipment throughout the system, such as dental, radiology, dialysis, and pharmacy automation equipment with estimated cost totaling $8.6 million. The American Hospital Association’s standard useful life for equipment is 5 to 7 years. Much of the University of Texas Medical Branch’s (UTMB) equipment is over 15 years old and in need of replacement. Included in this request is $5.6 million for additional staff positions. The UTMB is requesting 15 mental health clinician positions and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) is requesting three mental health clinician positions to serve as a mental health liaison to the Self Harm Prevention Offices. In addition, TTUHSC is requesting 15 additional nursing and certified medical assistant positions, as well as an advanced practice provider, for a sheltered housing facility at the Montford Unit. University providers continue to encounter significant difficulties in recruiting and retaining the staff necessary for the provision of inmate health care services at TDCJ correctional facilities and are requesting $90.2 million to provide 15% market level adjustments for Correctional Managed Health Care staff. The universities are experiencing an all-time high vacancy rate of 22%.
- In coordination with the Community Supervision and Corrections Departments (CSCDs), the funding requested includes $45.1 million per year to provide a 15% pay increase for community supervision officers and a 10% pay increase for all other CSCD staff. This request also includes $23.9 million in additional funding for CSCDs’ basic operations, specialized programs for offender treatment and enhanced offender supervision. The 123 local CSCDs provide for the supervision of adults placed on probation throughout the state. Probation provides judges an alternative to incarceration and provides a balanced criminal justice system. Due to increases in CSCDs’ basic operational costs such as urinalysis testing, in-house and contract treatment, and salaries, the provision of specialized program services will be negatively impacted without the requested Basic Supervision funding. Even though many CSCDs have collapsed positions to provide salary increases to better recruit and retain staff, staffing continues to be an issue. As a result, average caseloads have risen 11% since FY2021. Additionally, casework requirements such as assessments and early termination reviews, have decreased CSCDs’ ability to adhere to these demands and offer these programs and services to offenders. These services allow CSCDs to enhance their progressive sanctions models that support the needs of offenders who are at risk of revocation and provide judges with more alternatives to incarceration, both as a sentencing option and as an alternative to revocation. Without this funding, an estimated 37,500 offenders would not receive specialized services and regular caseload sizes would increase by approximately 18%.
- In order to limit the growth of state expenditures, long-term contracts have historically been established with private vendors for several secure facilities, including privately operated prisons, state jails, intermediate sanction facilities, and residential reentry centers. These contracts provide for treatment services and a total of 13,029 air-conditioned beds and have incorporated an escalation clause of approximately 2%-3% per year. Having exhausted all renewal options, these contracts have been rebid. The current market rates will require an additional $130.3 million for the 2024-25 biennium to maintain the current population in these correctional and parole facilities. Also included in this request is funding for the operation of Bradshaw State Jail. Bradshaw State Jail was idled and funding was reduced in the previous biennium’s 5% reduction. Without this funding, approximately 3,800 contracted beds will be eliminated.
- As nationwide rates for food, fuel and utilities have increased, these expenditures continue to be a significant fiscal challenge for the agency. Although a proactive contracting approach has resulted in lower utility rates and expenditures than otherwise would be expected, utility expenditures for TDCJ are projected to exceed the 2024-25 base level request by approximately $21 million annually. Additionally, increases in fuel prices over the last year, along with supply chain issues, have directly impacted the prices of the food items procured for inmate consumption. Fuel expenditures for TDCJ are anticipated to exceed 2024-25 base level requests by approximately $5.2 million annually and food expenditures are anticipated to exceed 2024-25 base level requests by approximately $4.2 million annually. This exceptional item would allow TDCJ to fund these critical items at a level consistent with current rates.
- Requested funding of $8.6 million for the Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI) would provide an average 15% increase to contracted local mental health authorities to maintain current service levels for pre-trial, deferred adjudication, probation, and parole populations statewide. A shortage of medical and mental health professionals has been seen nationwide for many years; however, events of the last two years have significantly impacted the overall availability of mental health services. The TCOOMMI programs have always faced the added barrier of attracting qualified and interested applicants for positions due to the nature of working with criminal justice involved clientele, serving clients through community contacts outside of clinical settings and expectations of an additional knowledge base in criminal justice. In this biennium, increased difficulties hiring qualified professionals have caused significant staffing shortages that require TCOOMMI programs to use contracted services to maintain current service levels. Although creative and innovative options are utilized and being expanded to support program staff efforts through technology, co-location of provider and supervision, peer and/or group service delivery options, and expanded options for initial connections, staffing levels continue to be a challenge. Without this funding, the local mental health authorities would reduce services for approximately 17,000 clients for the biennium.
- Correctional Training provides both pre-service, in-service, and specialized training to correctional officers and other TDCJ staff. This request would provide funding to build a new training facility in Huntsville, Texas. The new TDCJ facility will facilitate enhanced training to better equip staff providing public safety and increase retention of correctional officers.
- Over the course of many biennia, limited capital funding has required the agency to prioritize capital expenditures to those of the most critical need. Capital equipment not replaced with capital funding is repaired accordingly until the equipment cannot be repaired, or additional repairs exceed the value of the equipment. This request of additional capital funding would replace over 800 pieces of aging capital equipment, many of which range from 20 to 50 years old. Types of equipment include laundry/food service equipment such as dryers, washers, ovens, and ice machines; industrial equipment such as weaving looms and injection molding machines; transportation and warehousing equipment such as forklifts and refrigeration units; and security equipment such as parcel scanners and walk-through metal detectors.
- The agency's fleet currently consists of approximately 2,400 vehicles, utilized primarily for inmate transportation, freight transportation, agricultural operations, and facilities maintenance activities. The aging fleet requires increased maintenance costs, impacting the cost associated with transporting inmates and basic necessity items such as clothing and food. Reliability of the fleet is a significant component of providing public safety when transporting inmates. Inmate transportation buses have a ten-year, 300,000 mile replacement criteria. This request of additional funding would replace those vehicles already exceeding double the replacement criteria.
- There are over 14,000 personal computers (PCs) and laptops within the agency. TDCJ’s conservative PC replacement schedule is based on a six-year life cycle, whereas the Department of Information Resources (DIR) plan calls for a standard 3-5 years. The current replacement timeframe is approximately nine to ten years. The age of these PCs impacts their compatibility and functionality as hardware and software support become increasingly difficult to obtain. This funding request would replace nearly 7,000 computers that were purchased between FY2013 and FY2019 and return the agency to a six-year replacement cycle.
- The Legislature has invested in comprehensive video surveillance systems at TDCJ facilities over several biennia. The agency currently utilizes over 16,000 cameras in comprehensive video surveillance systems at 23 maximum security facilities throughout the state. This request would provide funding to allow the agency to obtain a maintenance contract, estimated at $2.0 million per year, to outsource camera maintenance across the state. Additionally, comprehensive video surveillance systems have an estimated six-year life cycle and are in need of periodic upgrades based on that life cycle. An additional $1.3 million per year would provide funding for the first two years of the six-year refresh cycle.
- The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) primary function and responsibility is timely and proactive investigations. OIG consists primarily of peace officers responsible for investigating allegations of criminal behavior, serious policy violations, excessive use of force, and suspected fraud on TDCJ facilities, as well as working jointly with local law enforcement to apprehend absconders and escapees. This funding request is for additional staff due to workload growth and complexity, to enable OIG to develop more proactive investigations, continue enhanced law enforcement initiatives, and enhance the safety and security of inmates, employees, and the public. Lastly, this request includes $1 million for the FY 2024-25 biennium to address and maintain the OIG’s aging fleet in line with the agency’s conservative replacement schedule.
- The agency maintains an existing physical plant, numbering over 100 correctional facilities statewide, with many of these facilities over 75 years old. The size, scope and complexity of our physical plant requires substantial ongoing repair and restoration. Identified through condition assessments as well as major work requests prepared by operational staff, the 2024-25 request represents only a portion of the agency’s infrastructure repair and restoration needs. We are continuously prioritizing these projects based on security and safety requirements. This request would fund projects identified in the agency’s FY 2024-25 Capital Expenditure Plan. These projects include: roof repairs, security fencing and lighting, electrical renovations, water/wastewater improvements, and other major infrastructure repairs.
- The agency is requesting funding to provide body-worn cameras to correctional officers working on 23 maximum security facilities throughout the state. The acquisition and use of body-worn cameras will assist in preventing and de-escalating confrontational situations that occur between correctional officers and inmates. This technology will provide better transparency and document encounters within the correctional facilities. The requested funding would provide an estimated 11,500 body-worn cameras for correctional officers working on 23 maximum security units and includes maintenance and video storage.
- Agency-wide upgrades to our radio system and communication infrastructure will increase the effectiveness of our communication capabilities. This request will provide funding for upgrades to our existing communication infrastructure and radios, as well as the purchase of two trailer towers. These radios are currently on a six-year replacement cycle. These upgrades will provide radio interoperability and increase the effectiveness of communication capabilities throughout the state. Without the additional funding of this request, the TDCJ may encounter difficulties maintaining the current level of support in regard to radio and other communication system failures.
- As the need for cybersecurity continues to increase, this request would provide for ten additional cybersecurity positions to help bolster the agency’s defenses and provide adequate safeguards against cybersecurity attacks.
- The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is scheduled to transition into the Centralized Accounting and Payroll/Personnel System (CAPPS) in the FY2024-25 biennium. The requested funding would support staffing/operational needs associated with this project. These positions are critical to continue current support functions while simultaneously implementing and testing the new CAPPS System. These positions will also serve as trainers and as project managers to steer the conversion project, focus on processes, and serve as CAPPS experts post implementation.
We recognize that the state’s leadership will be required to make many difficult funding decisions during the upcoming legislative session and appreciate the hard work of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Legislature and their recognition of the valuable service performed by the employees of this agency. We share a commitment to public safety and sound correctional management and are confident that the critical funding requirements within the criminal justice system will be met.