I started my internship with a bang a few weeks ago, arriving at 8:30 on my first day to accompany the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s (TCJC) executive director and a group of staff to June 5th Sunset Advisory Commission Hearing on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
As far as first days of work go, it was a pretty great one. Walking through the halls of the Capital always gives me sense of endless possibility and fills me with excitement about where I can take everything I’ve learned at LBJ and what I can do in the future to make real, positive change.
In the hearing, I had the opportunity to learn about the current state of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and get a sneak peek into the sort of initiatives we can expect to see in the upcoming Legislative Session. It was especially interesting to listen to discussions of current inefficiencies in the system, and the policies that foster them. For example, did you know that the ten sickest inmates cost the State approximately $1 million dollars each year, but because of restrictions on eligibility for the Medically Recommended Intensive Supervision (MRIS) Program, they remain in TDCJ custody? These individuals are too sick to be a threat to society and could easily be released into treatment facilities or nursing homes where Medicaid & Medicare would cover their expenses. Instead, because of what Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) described as “tough politics” they remain in TDCJ custody, costing the state money that could be spent elsewhere.
It is these sorts of inefficiencies, that could be solved through making tough political choices and improving policy, that the Sunset Advisory Commission highlighted for legislatures in the June 5th hearing. As I learn more and more about criminal justice in Texas, and become more and more invested in finding ways to improve the condition of system involved individuals, I will be interested to see how the next Legislative Session unfolds!
Since that first introduction to the current state of Texas criminal justice, I’ve been back in the TCJC offices working on a number of projects related to the employment issues facing former offenders in Texas…in fact, I almost have my first product ready to be sent off for publication…but more on that later! All in all, I definitely have no complaints about the first few weeks of my summer internship experience!