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Window on State Government

Public Safety & Corrections Task Force

San Angelo, April 25, 2000
Comptroller's Office Hears Public Safety and Correctional Concerns in San Angelo
Close personal relationships between children and adults are essential in curbing juvenile crime in Texas, according to testimony heard at the e-Texas Public Safety and Corrections hearing in San Angelo.   More-->
Public Safety Task Force at work

Elizabeth Lang-Miers, Task Force Commissioner

Public safety and corrections are two of Texas state government's major responsibilities and represent a large share of state spending. The Texas Legislature has allocated to 14 state agencies more than $3.9 billion in appropriations for Public Safety and Corrections for fiscal 2000.

The five state agencies responsible for the lion's share of public safety and corrections spending are:

  • the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ),
  • the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC),
  • the Texas Youth Commission (TYC),
  • the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and
  • the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

The most significant is TDCJ, which operates the second largest prison system in the nation, incarcerating more than 143,000 adult offenders. Not only does TDCJ build and operate the state's prisons, state jails, and substance abuse centers, but it also oversees and distributes state funding to local community supervision and corrections departments. In addition, TDCJ supervises offenders released on parole or mandatory supervision.

TJPC and TYC oversee the juvenile justice system. Their jurisdiction extends to youth from the ages of 10 to 17 who have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct requiring supervision. TYC, however, may retain control of a youthful offender until the age of 21. In the last four years, the number of 10-17 year olds in TYC has more than doubled, from 2,200 to 4,900.

The Board of Pardons and Paroles has decision-making authority over the granting and revocation of parole and recommends to the governor who should be granted clemency. With 18 board members and 226 employees, the board's fiscal 1999 budget is almost $8 million. Additionally, the Department of Public Safety enforces laws to protect the public and promote traffic safety. DPS has more than 7,000 employees and a fiscal 1999 budget of $302 million. The judicial system also plays a large role by trying offenders and sentencing the guilty. In 1998, the courts processed 112,461 adult felony convictions and deferred adjudications in Texas.

Driven by the demand for improved public safety, increased prosecution, and stiffer penalties, the cost of public safety and corrections has risen dramatically in recent years. TDCJ's budget increased 596 percent between 1985 and 1998, while TJPC and TYC's increased 498 percent over the same period. From 1988 to 1998, the number of TDCJ inmates has increased from 38,952 to 143,803, with a corresponding increase in the number of prison beds from 41,497 to 147,171.

The Public Safety and Corrections task force will be faced with a series of complex issues, ranging from inmate recidivism, to finding the most efficient way to manage correctional facilities, to the rising cost of providing medical care to elderly prisoners and the mentally ill. Moreover, integral to any examination of public safety and corrections is the juvenile justice system and the operations of the Texas Youth Commission. Other key issues include: the availability and effectiveness of drug rehabilitation programs and how technology can cut operating costs and improve services for the various agencies.

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