The following link is to a video of a Texas House of Representatives Committee Hearing on Corrections that took place on August 10 2022. Marsha McLane testifies. I encourage you all to listen for the difference between what she says and what is actually happening at TCCC.
The Representatives on the committee can be found at this link: https://house.texas.gov/committees/committee/?committee=C200
This transcript was generated by Artificial Intelligence software. Timestamps are provided if you need to find the audio within the video.
will now come to order. The Clerk will call the roll. Representative bales representative Burroughs. Representative Martinez Fisher. Representative Rodriguez, Representative Sherman. Representative Slayton, representative light A quorum is present pursuant to Rule four section 16. A for the sole purpose of taking testimony.
And before we begin, I’d like to thank everyone for being here today. Appreciate your time. Today the Committee will hear from both invited and public testimony on the remaining interim charges issued by Speaker feeling. And then I also have a comment, but before we proceed any further does any committee members have anything they’d like to share or add today? No, but
I would like to thank you. I’d like to make a statement on my on behalf of my colleague who is unable to be here today and expresses his regrets and so I’d like to read his statement if you don’t mind. Please go right ahead, Mr. Allen, to chair marine Vice Chair Alan I regret that I am unable to be present or present my questions in person but I am unable to benefit from the from being in the presence of those who are together today and the interests of the least and of these. The work we do is important. I know we have one who reminds us of this, but I know I am speaking to the choir. That said Chairman Moran please note that I am submitting my questions to direct the Coliseum and Superintendent Hartmann to be included in their respective presentation. Thank you for your utmost consideration. Chair and committee members. Honorable hon. Representative Sherman.
Thank you. Any other committee members like to say a few words before we begin? So before we begin working on the interim charges that were issued by Speaker feeling I’d like to take a minute for the committee to hear from various agencies and programs that the committee has jurisdiction over so that we can receive any updates. Since these are not bills all witnesses will be testifying as neutral for purposes of the witness affidavits.
At this time the chair calls Marsha McLean Bryan Collier Jack Cho. Good morning and as always before we begin if you would each state your name and agency represent and we’ve already taken notice that you’re testifying neutrally
Marsh McClain, Executive Director of Texas civil commitment office
abroad call your executive director of Texas Department of Criminal Justice
and Jack showed special Executive Director of the special prosecution unit.
Thank you so much. And I will allow you all to start in whatever order you proceed about the order that you’ve just introduced yourselves.
Thank you. Talk a little about what we’ve been doing since the last legislative session and since we had no new laws we had to implement we focus mainly on programming, case manager safety facility, extension and caseload growth. We have run out of beds at our facility in May we were basically one bed away from running out of beds. The facility did a 16 bed extension, their expansion and are right right now. Hopefully on August 22. We’ll be breaking ground on 350 additional beds plus a huge classroom building for the client. So that hopefully will take us through a decade this point. We have our case we focused on case manager safety this year. We bought body cameras are our case managers in the field, do 24/7 visits on the clients that are home and living in the community. So they may be showing up to three in the morning. Whatever time and the body cams that we got our live action body cams you can they stream as they go into their houses. When we have person going into the house. We have a supervisor making sure they’re watching in case there’s any kind of problems at all, while the home visits going on. We also trained our our staff at the facility in they got pepper spray training, we had not something we had used before and no one at this point is carrying it they wanted the option to if they if they could because we have some near assaults and attempted assaults in some of our case managers which has changed how we look at some things up at that facility. So we wanted to make sure they were prepared and felt felt comfortable working in IT and right now it’s that they’ve all been trained. Not everybody wants to carry it they learned real quick because they went through the spray and everything at that point that is when you spray it be ready to get it to receive it too. At the same time. Treatment programming we as long as I’m sure my counterparts here have had issues with staffing, and the big part of staffing has been the licensed therapist. We we contract for six hours a week of sex effects later
on a correction here and now okay,
hold on one moment and then we’ll we had one member who was attempting to attend virtually but we hadn’t
Mr. Bales represent bales Have you joined us once he’s able to actually connect will recognize him But Miss Buckland please continue with your testimony.
So treatment program we were doing six hours a week of sex offender treatment plus the individual treatment and then the Substance Abuse and various other things with the problems they’ve had in hiring some of their therapists, we’ve reduced it to three hours of sex offender treatment, just until they get enough therapist and they just now are going to be higher and five more so that should get us back up to to the six hours. But in the meantime, our staff came up with something we called Project change and we we developed some programming it’s not sex offender treatment, but we develop programming where they can use some skills they’ve developed in that treatment in real life. So we’ve got a lot of peer mentoring going on and leading of some groups out there. And we’re going to continue that even when we get the six hours of treatment because when we sit down and figure out how much free time they have you know, instead of playing on their iPads or mp3 players and then we’re gonna find some more productive things for them to do and it’s worked really well when we started this project change the disciplinary went down considerably up there. So keeping them busy instead of in front of a TV. kind of silly we didn’t think of this years ago but I think when that treatment kind of went away at this point, but it’ll be back up and just so you know, we pay the vendor for this treatment and when he’s not doing we also sanction them for not doing it so we get money back when they’re not providing the full treatment that they’re supposed to re entry and housing. Sir again, Ryan and I can we talk at the same thing and finding locations for these guys to live. We have and I’m proud to say this point that we’ve had 15 People come off civil commitment prior to 2016. No one ever got out of the program. And since we’ve been there since 2014. A group came out in 2016. We’ve got five people currently in the community right now. We had in the last year 11 People went to tier five and five of them got off civil commitment. And when they go off when they get off, go into tier five which is in the community. That’s when they’re working. They got their own apartment they’re renting and paying for we don’t pay for anything when they go to the community they pay for their treatment, their GPS monitoring and their apartment at this point. We just had two guys that went into facility and a week later got a job both in maintenance both of making $23 an hour so they’re doing very well our problem is finding locations that will accept sex offenders and then if we find them that sex offenders that they can afford. Clearly this Austin area is real difficult to try and get somebody in if people are from this area. healthcare expenditures is going skyrocketing when you’re probably here that you guys will be hearing that for the next year around here that all the expenses are going up. Our guys are elderly generally have all kinds of diseases and long term things so that that expense is going up that we’re trying to do the best we can working with the vendor, and the staff they have in their in house clinic to try and lower that and Kaitlyn caseload growth. It’s it’s gone up from we’re currently at 415 People are in our facility we anticipate close to 526 by the end of 2024. So that’s that’s moving up at this point. That’s kind of a brief overview what we’re looking at
in Could you do you happen to know the statistic of top your head as far as capacity what has been your average capacity?
On average? I mean it just average capacity. I
can tell you that I know it changes and it’s really like a timeline but I didn’t know if you maintain it was typically that space is 65% or 80% filled.
Oh no, our bed spaces are like 99.9 just give you an example. We right now the bed capacity operational hours are 428 because they just added 16 beds that we can use that were can put 415 people in those beds so I get the daily thing. We’re at 97.0% Right.
Okay. Mr. Chairman, you gotta squeeze in here, Chairman. Absolutely. Thank you on the health care. What’s the general we do we have a median age
of these folks they’re 57 I think right now.
Okay, so we’ve got a fair number that are 65 and older. Oh, yes. Okay. Do we know if and I don’t know. Um, you know, sometimes they are. I mean, it’s incredible. But do we know if any of them or eligible for Medicare
they’re not as long as they’re in a confined facility. This is this is something we work and we even try it every year trying?
So okay, so I thought this was just for the people that are just listening to this. Okay. I thought this was a civil commitment. Yes. Okay. So, if it’s civil commitment, because someone may be listening to this. So if it’s civil commitment, because, you know, we had a big law case. If there’s civil commitment, then why if they are, some of them are eligible. For Medicare, it may be one and maybe 100. I don’t know. Why would you tell me? So why? Why is this facility still considered totally forensic?
I can’t answer that. We work with the Medicaid people in the Medicare people. Yeah. And so it’s the security people have Social Security has a specific rule that they wrote that keeps civil commitment people from getting Social Security. It’s as long as they’re in a confined facility. They cannot get their Social Security. It’s it’s a bad actual rule written Will.
Will you know, if you’re incapacitated as a senior you may be confined in a nursing home, and you’re still you know, you may still be eligible for some Medicare. What are we talking to? We’re talking
to the Medicare and Medicaid and Medicare offices DC,
in Texas in Texas. I mean, I mean, I thought this was civil commitment. Okay, um, you know, like you I’m confused. Are these like, Is it like the CNS folks in Dallas? I think they have offices in Dallas or is it are
we got the Lubbock people in the Dallas people we talk to a lot of our and the difference here is our guys can’t leave. If you’re in a nursing home, you could leave if you could get up and walk if your family came and got you and wanted to take you somewhere else. But these guys are confined and can’t leave without supervision. Moving on somewhere. So that’s, that’s what they’re telling us. I mean, we said we were in the middle now. of working with HHSC and some of their other Medicaid rules and have them looking at we don’t stop looking at this because that cost is outrageous.
Yes. outrageous, and they already got money on the table. I mean, you know, it’s like being in the casino. I don’t do casinos, but it’s like being at the casino and leaving money on the table. I’ve heard whatever people say so. I mean, what this is, this is this is very, this is very curious to me. They’re going back and forth off to work. I thought this was civil commitment. Now, how do I mean how does someone get into this program?
They’re going back and forth and work at the facility they don’t leave all day long. The people that have graduated from a facility and in the community, they’re eligible for everything anytime to deal with, but how they get into this facility is tdcj generates a list of people that are eligible and that’s basically two people with with a been convicted of two sexual offenses and then needs with a multidisciplinary committee made up of tdcj. US Department of Public Safety HHSC victim services, they look at the cases and they voted to be reviewed further. And whoever gets reviewed, reviewed further, goes back to tdcj. They have their psychiatrist, look at it, evaluate them if they met make the recommendation that they’d be civilly committed. Then it goes to the county of where they were committed from and that county makes the decision whether or not they want to civilly commit them, and then they will take them to court. Then Jack’s people get Millo special prosecution helps on the county
so so real quick. So got that. Okay, so some of these folks are off paper or some of them are rolling.
Yes, some are off some are on for I think we have 60 or 70 at the facility still
right. So if I’m off paper on paper, are we gonna have anybody from UTMB eventually today?
Today, not today. Okay. It
would seem like I don’t know if they’re here today. Usually they’re here. This is something this is like the last thing on my bucket list. So it would seem to me UTMB and Texas Tech would be all over this. I mean, we have a great Texas congressional. I mean, if there’s civil committed in there off paper, it may be just one one of these people. Okay. I just don’t understand it eligible for Medicare. I just don’t understand why this isn’t clicking. I understand why they’re in there. Okay. And they have agreed to be there. Okay. All right. So, maybe you Tim D is listening. Maybe they’ll call in like, like our colleague, and maybe they will show up and drag me out in the hallway to find out you know, if they’re all over this because, you know, it’s eventually them paying for it, I guess. Well, I know how funding works, but who well, who’s paying for the
medical bills paying for their medical care, all of us citizens? Well, I get that but it comes through. I mean, they don’t go to UTMB or Texas, or have part of that at all. The vendor has contracts with the local hospitals or doctors specialties in the hospital, different doctor specialties.
All right, well, well, maybe the vendor vendors here. Maybe the vendor needs to call us up. And see why this isn’t working. Like we thought it was working. I thought it was pretty much just saving. Thank you Mr. Chair.
Members, any other questions? Oh, and at this time, the chair recognizes that Representative bales has joined us virtually. And now direct your call here with your remarks and overview of status update for your agency. Yes,
sir. Good morning, Chairman burn last year out on the members of Brian Carter, Executive Director, Texas Department criminal justice. First I was gonna talk to you real quickly. I’ll just population kind of where we are and then talk about projections. And some of the things going on with the agency. Currently we have that eight facilities that we’re operating. Our population right now is 121,176. In that population, just under 9000 of those are females just over 19,000 of those are 55 and over in that population. We’ve had about a 2000 increase in population just in the last 60 days. In our rural population, we currently have 78,000 under supervision. We have 67 Pro offices around the state that number is actually down over the last couple of years. Pre COVID numbers there were 83,000 pre COVID Prison numbers, if you remember were 140,000 and during COVID We went all the way down in prisons 216,000. And again back up to 121. Now on our probation populations they have seen increases over the over the last two years. They currently have 290,000 active cases that it does include the pre trial that we pay for at the state level, pre COVID They were around 195,000. So they’ve seen an increase in just pre trial, as well as placements pretrial in felony and misdemeanor and other placements as well in probation. The projections from the LBB would indicate that at 27 They estimate will be at 134,000 in our prisons. Not sure if that will ultimately be the number but we’ve continued to see courts kind of get back engaged in those numbers continue to increase. They were project pro populations rising to the mid 80s In the next 27 as well. And then they will show probation populations razzing some between 27 as well. As you look at just issues with any agency, we’ve had 11 closures of prisons since 2011. We’ve had five that we idled over the last three to four years two of those have been reopened. Two units are also dedicated operation lodestar in the Rio Grande Valley. We currently have 90 878 beds idle and the units were operating. So within those 98 units, we have nearly 10,000 beds that are idle, the 45 day duty to accept in other words, picking inmates up from the county jails were at 15 days from the time they
become paper ready. Just that’s an average of 15 days isn’t
average. Yes, sir. Staffing, which is our most significant operational challenge and has been for the last few years. We hit an all time high of 1000 vacancies earlier this year, we were able to implement a 15% pay increase in April. And that has made a positive change in our staffing numbers. Our numbers currently are just under 7000 vacancies that clearly we’re in uncharted waters as it pertains to staff and if you look overall at the agency, we’re just under 70% staffed with our correctional officers right now.
And just to clarify, in our previous hearing, you did explain that that 70% That’s not system wide that obviously it varies. And I think the point that you made was that we’re facilities are located in larger populated areas. Your ability to fill those positions seems to be easier because you can draw from a larger pool of folks nearby. The facilities have been located in more rural parts of the state. That’s where you see the highest staffing shortages. Yes,
sir. Absolutely. We have several units around the state that are actually staffed at Above 100% is one of our strategies. We actually if we can, we’ll hire above 100% and actually use officers from those locations to help officers and understaffed locations. So we have a lot of correctional officers in a given day traveling to other areas of the state to try to help officers units that are not staffing but in our major major metropolitan areas were able to staff to people in well, the Rio Grande Valley were able to staff well and we use officers at those locations to go to other locations to help. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks but certainly available for questions.
members do have any other questions that you’d like to visit with Director Collier represented? How many active cases COVID Are
there right now? How’s it 385 within the inmate population, we’ve seen a little bit of an increase in COVID over the last probably 60 days, but not nothing like what we experienced a couple of years back. You don’t have any active cases and monkey pox.
And just to clarify his question, as far as the active cases for certain hospitalization, I assume that’s relatively low. It
is yes or very low on hospitalization but in a positive right now about 385 system we have those isolated under the normal protocol. And then obviously we have those that were exposed, separated as well following protocol.
Any other questions? Last year, Alan,
thank you. I wanted to ask about the heat situation, just man. You have do you have any deaths? The heat situation?
No, ma’am. We have had obviously you all know what’s hot. There was also a rider this past session that required us to take temperatures every afternoon. We do that every afternoon and I can tell you those housing areas it’s not unusual at all to be in the mid 90s or higher. We’ve had some that have gone over 100 degrees and those housing areas so we have a wide range of mitigation efforts that we put in place as far as providing water fans, and other things to try to help the population this thus far this year. We’ve had nine heat related illnesses with our inmate population. We’ve had 16 with our staff. I will tell you the majority of those staff heat illnesses actually occurred during the Lopez escape as we were doing the man who work in the cat in the fields.
Know that we have a large surplus funds this year you’ve got to be working on air conditioning.
We certainly would like to talk about that. We presented a plan to the Appropriations Committee just a few weeks ago, they presented a four phase plan that would allow the agency to actually air condition all the facilities that are not air conditioned. I can tell you with money you gave us last legislative session we’re actually in the process of air conditioning about 5000 beds now so we are doing that as well. I can also tell you that recently we put air conditioning in our intake facility gymnasiums, temporary air, just as a way as we bring people in from the county jails. Typically if they’re vulnerable, we’re gonna have to move them quickly to an air conditioned bed. And that negates that so we’re able to keep those individuals at that facility and air conditioning as we’ve air conditioned those gymnasiums and we’re letting them stay in that area.
Yes, ma’am. I have. Another question is Sir, you talked a little bit about essentially probation. Yes processes. I know from time to time, I do hear from constituents about how we pay for probation services. And those come from an array of different sources. Could you give us a little bit of information in that it always seems like we’re, we’re we’re sure to penny or two whenever we’re trying to do that
most definitely. And if you look at the way we do funding and the way the funding flows, as far as the formula, it is one that we hope will be looked at when the agency goes to the sunset process or even sooner. Certainly an area that we feel like needs to be looked at in our legislative appropriation request which we have not passed through our board yet but it will include an area trying to essentially obtain additional funding for probation for basic supervision that we found typically the fate there state funds that go into probation and then there are local fees. Depending on the department that scale can be different. There’s also diversion grants that are provided to counties that they can apply for and receive grants for certain programs that they operate within their counties. So some counties have grant money as well as basic supervision. What I will tell you the state funds for basic supervision haven’t really changed at least 10 years if not longer. So the amount that we give probation departments to operate with has been static for at least a decade.
Can we just want to highlight that? So the amount of money that the state provides to our we’re talking about adult probation offices is static and we have not changed that even though many factors that go into that process have changed. So cost of living adjustments. As the cost of for many of them, travel, mileage, and the basic office supplies and computers that they need to do their jobs. All of those expenses have gone up
yesterday and what you’ll see departments are having to do and have had to do over the last three to four years or collapse. Officer positions to basically be able to retain and hold on to staff that they haven’t been able to hire as well as manage some of those extra costs to come in.
I have personally witnessed that. Yes, yes sir. And that was through attrition. We are cannibalizing existing staff placements. In order to keep the remaining staff. Yes, sir. And I think that’s been a strain on on everyone.
Very strained. Yes, sir. Absolutely. We meet regularly with the probation chiefs as well and representatives from those chiefs. But they have really, pre and during the pandemic they were the biggest part of the agency yet. First up as far as the things that happened as a result of COVID and then post COVID. They’ve gotten hit with pretrial. Many of those departments have been asked to do pretrial even though there’s no funding for it. And they’ve done that but at the same time, they’re not funded at the state level or the county level many times to do that and they’ve had to absorb those duties as well as trying to keep up with cost.
And with the Peridot is my last question. We thought that it was a paradigm shift on through the pandemic process. I think that there’s been an increased reliance upon technology for them to do their their job to provide those services. But I don’t know that any budget changes have accommodated the increased demand and that technology being made available. You’re absolutely correct. So if any of that’s really coming from the counties if the counties can afford to do it, otherwise, I don’t know how we’re paying for that.
Correct? Yes. We were able to return some money back to departments as we have a requirement to do a refund and the department’s as far as leftover money, were able to return some of that back to them to use in basic supervision. But clearly their basic funding is an area that needs a shot in the arm. Okay.
Thank you. Yes, sir. Members, any other questions? Not at this time. So, Mr. Choate, if you’d like to give us a review of your activities. Thank
you. Good morning, Chairman Moran, Vice Chair and committee members. I’m Jack chaud. I’m the Executive Director of the special prosecution unit which is a reminder where the the prosecutor’s office that handles the cases arising within tdcj Also, TJ JD, and then we do the civil commitment of sexually violent predators in conjunction with the local district attorney’s as Miss McLean referred to earlier. And I intended to keep my comments focused on the the Criminal Division which handles the tdcj cases in the civil commitment cases. If you have questions about TJ JD, please feel free to ask me those as well. But I will start with our Criminal Division and handling the cases that come out of tdcj. I think we’re no different than your local district attorney’s. We are in that post COVID era where we are trying to dig out of backlogs as courts are opening up and his cases are now going to trial. They’re still challenging getting a courtroom with a COVID free Judge COVID Free attorneys and COVID free jurors. We were set to try solicitation of capital murder case couple weeks ago, but the defendant arrived with COVID And unfortunately, we had to reschedule that trial. So that is still a challenge that we’re having to deal with. But I know this fall will be a very active time for us as far as trials that we have set to go. As far as the numbers of cases that’s remaining fairly static, and we’re still seeing the full spectrum of offense is anywhere from contraband cases all the way to violence against staff balance. With that, I would say that obviously the violent cases are a priority. However, contraband cases are also a priority for us right now. And I will say that it’s it’s sort of a process of always reimagining strategies to combat those cases, not just for the sake of prosecuting people for having contraband, but of course, the attenuating deaths and other violence that occurs as a result of contraband. So I do want to publicly thank Mr. Collier for taking the lead in this strategy, part of how we’re attacking these cases. I think there’s some really good ideas we’re meeting regularly to discuss this and tdcj has been a very good partner and very transparent in helping us with this. This serious situation. Say that currently I’m we’re a little bit behind you know, we’re sort of like looking at through the I think it’s the Webb telescope and that when you look at our caseload, you’re actually looking at cases that occurred probably a year or longer before as we wait for labs to come in from the Office of the Inspector General but we are, we are aware of very significant investigations that are going on currently with hopefully some very positive results with not only the drugs that are in tdcj with the folks that are bringing them in I’ve instructed our staff as a policy to as we go forward on these cases to see prison and jail time as a condition of probation in some cases for individuals that are caught bringing drugs in for offenders that are part of these networks. We’re trying to seek fines and try and actually reduce the supply for the ability to bribe individuals and certainly purchase illegal contrary and as they come in. So as we see more of these cases come in, hopefully we’ll see more of that come to fruition. I’ve not seen any sort of alarming upticks in violence perpetrated by staff that we still have those cases we have cases going soon. I know that some of the issues we have anecdotally are a result of the challenges tdcj faces with staffing, however, been impressed with the work they are able to do with with people that they do have they’re
moving on to the civil commitment program on share with Mr. McLean. I think this is a program that works. It’s it’s a very significant good thing that 15 People have made it through the tear process and have been released from the program. We do see an uptick in numbers of these cases. Specifically then McLean alluded to we are budgeted to handle 50 cases a year. That’s supposed to be the worst of the worst. That’s what the law requires. These individuals, as these cases have come out since a change in the law. I think we have seen the numbers go up somewhat as district attorneys wish to pursue these cases. And think as being involved does help sort of moderate that process and make sure that we’re using experts that are not just telling us what we want to hear but really giving us making sure that we’re targeting the individuals that the law requires us to target. So currently pending, we have about 54 cases, the attorneys that handle these cases for us. I’m not even sure I’d recognize them on them anymore. They’re on the road so much. We’ve tried 39 cases already this year. As I said we’re budgeted to handle 50 cases. So here in August, we’re sitting at 39 trials with five more to go just this month. That gets us to 40, roughly 75% of the year already. That that that makes for a pretty weary staff, but they are impassioned about what they’re doing. And they I think have been getting noticed. I think the greatest thing about the change in the law, frankly, is that the citizens of the state of Texas are noticing that the state of Texas is doing this and are feeling good about this process and that we’re doing something about these very violent individuals. That’s, that’s that’s what’s going on in our office. It’s, as I said, very busy, and certainly avail myself to any questions that you might have.
I have a tangentially related question for you just essentially, could you provide us your observations whenever y’all work on cases that have to do with contraband being smuggled in, or activities being conducted that are criminal in nature within the system? What role do you think cell phones playing
a significant role?
So when you say significant role, do you do you think that’s nearly every case at this point that said that this level of technology is playing a role? Or is it certainly less than that? And I don’t really have an answer. I’m just wanting to know because I know from my perception, it seems that we all rely upon cell phones to a great deal now in our daily lives. I mean, for me, it’s it’s it’s a timer. It’s an alarm clock, it’s a scheduling device. Does it play that high? Of a role in your contraband cases?
I absolutely think it does. We’ve seen those few phones used for all sorts of nefarious reasons. Obviously, you know, we’ve we know that there’s been executions ordered by cell phone escapes planned by cell phone but just running a criminal enterprise is a lot more effective when you can use that cell phone to not only contact folks on the outside, colleagues, other criminals, but also using apps like cash app, I knows the ability to get to money to make the facilitate these these sort of criminal networks is pretty significant. So I would absolutely agree with you that that is helping that now also say that it’s also helping us investigate and prosecute these cases because those cell phones become a wealth of evidence and information. I was recently teaching a course on child sexual abuse and just talking about the amount of evidence that we’re able to find on a phone not just directly related to that, but but location information, those kinds of things or your cell phone gives you gives you away a lot so, so that is that that is a very serious concern. We do tend to continue to take those those cases very seriously.
Thank you, members. Do y’all have any questions? Chairman? Why? Yes, you can ask your question if anybody in front of us today
is excuse me. This like just just want to make sure I was correct. And something I was thinking. So the one of the languages for the civil commitment that is in Health and Human Services. Okay. And could I say that if these are civilly committed, summer off paper, but they’re still in program maybe 65 and older Okay. Could I say that? You know, they can’t go they can’t you know, their movement is restricted. Got that. In HHSC, kind of just funding for this, right.
We’re a separate agency. I’m sorry. The MediCal funding comes to the appropriation does we’re a separate agency, we have a separate budget HHSC I mentioned them because they have the Medicaid administrator can see who’s eligible and who’s not. So there’s some communication there seeing if any chance we could ever fit in. But we deal directly with the Medicaid people out of Dallas and I don’t know how because. Okay.
Okay, because I was looking at we had to go back and look at the about TC co mentioned HHSC but putting that aside, so could I also say that this particular facility is a mental health facility and we got to keep these people well, we got to keep we got to restrict them. But but all mental health facilities restrict people like mental hospitals mill, you know, that happens all over the country. Right? I mean, but I’m just trying to find what’s
the difference is if they leave this facility that’s a new felony. They leave burning state hospital or one of the I don’t believe that they get criminal charges if they’ve been committed there because of a mental health reason but if they’re a civilly committed sex offender, that if they leave that facility without permission, that’s a new felony.
So but but we got this thing pretty wired tight I mean, it’s not like,
no, it’s coverage. I’m with you, if you’ve come up with us.
How about on the veteran side of things, are we able to are they if they’re eligible, qualified or
they can get to that we we’ve taken them to Veterans Hospital, they’ve got there’s a new veterans clinic in Lubbock that we refer that angle, and I’ll tell you what, I think I do with that we thought we were gonna get on Medicare, everybody at one point, but they have to sign up when they turn 65. They’re allowed to sign up and they’re told to sign up, but they can’t get any benefits today get out of the program. Mr. Choke, did you want to
answer if I may just to shirtdress chairman, widen your concern I would share your logic on that and it is clear that it is a civil process and this is what we tell jurors that is a rehabilitation, significance sex offender treatment process. And so you’re dead on it. That’s and not only is that just the observation, that’s what the law says. And that’s, and that’s critical because for the United States Supreme Court to say that this is a constitutional thing to do. They’ve said that this must be a civil process. And I would also note that the federal government also has their own civil commitment programs.
Members, any other questions? Georgia caller before we go, did you want to add anything to my question, my line of question just about the use of cell phones and their role that they play as far as contraband cases or criminal activity that occurs within the system? No,
sir. I would happily do so. And I don’t have a chart in front of me, but I can tell you the so pre COVID And now there’s been a significant increase in contraband in the system, a lot of narcotics, a lot of it coming in the mail. We’ve had a 450% increase in drugs we find in the system over the last five years. I would say contraband cell phones are the root of all that traffic and root of much of the illegal activity that goes on through as Mr. Choate said, the cash app it’s a way for them to move money, but you find the individuals that are in the that are responsible for the trafficking and trading. And the negotiations happen via cell phones. They be happening, the cash moves around on Cash App and some of the other apps that they can use via cell phone. So cell phones Most definitely, if there was a way to route that completely out of prisons that would eliminate significantly, it will eliminate contraband contraband will be enough. We’ll just have to figure out another way to do it. But it would not be nearly as prevalent in my opinion. If cellphones were not a part of it,
I’m going to ask the really obvious question that we know the answer to but why can you not eliminate cell phones from the prison system?
Unfortunately, we do technology. There’s technology out there that would jam cellphones but it’s illegal to use that because it potentially can can bleed over to other signals. So you might jam a prison but the neighborhood next door may not lose us. So that’s the concern. We brought that issue we being correctional agencies across the country brought that issue to the Federal Communication Commission. I’ve been there several times. We’ve had meetings with the chairman and others. But we’re not getting any movement on that issue. That micro jamming has been proven to work and that’s where you can isolate jamming to a specific location it would work and it would work effectively. We do what we call managed access we have two units in Texas with managed access. And that’s basically it intercepts a signal. It doesn’t block it or jam it but it’s similar technology in that it manages signal and doesn’t let it get out. We have that on two facilities but and I will tell you, it’s very expensive. We got these through our phone vendor, as part of essentially our implementation. of our phone system. They’re about $2 million per facility do and the effectiveness of them. I would be hesitant, they are effective to some degree but they’re not 100% Like a jamming system.
And so just to be clear, it’s the federal government and federal regulations that make it illegal to jam a cell phone.
There is there’s recent there is a bill that was just recently introduced out of I want to say and I have to get the name to you but a bill in Congress it was just introduced but I’ve been down this path a handful of times where something gets introduced but it doesn’t even get a hearing but it’s a very difficult hill to climb.
Finally, in your conversations with with FCC. Did you glean from that that they could buy rulemaking authority they can make a combination of micro jammer?
Yes, sir. We met with them. We also met with the cell phone industry. And I was on a committee that met with them over the course of a couple of years. We they helped us get a process where you can actually shut down the phone. But essentially it still involves a court. It’s difficult to do understand there may be some ease up in that process, but it would still be that you have to detect the phone. Then you can let them know you’ve detected an illegal phone and area and they’ll have you shut it off. That’s about as far as we’ve gotten.
Mr. McLean did you have something to
add? Yeah, because I felt left out because you didn’t ask us about cell phones. So it’s kind of funny when you compare to society when we allow cell phones or facility when people get to a certain tier and there’s workers that are money in the facility so they buy cell phones, but what we’ve had just in the last six months of two people that’s headphones smuggled into both of them are back in custody because they got they started their own social media sites. So they had the sexually violent predators on a social media site, which is against their sex offender registration. So so we had to I know Brian has a little more than that. But it’s cell phone can absolutely Republican,
understand. I really appreciate your sharing information today. Members if there are no other questions. We certainly appreciate your time. And please express our gratitude to everyone that works with you. Thank you very much.