Change Remuneration Package For Inmates Upon Discharge from Prison

The Legislature should change the remuneration for inmates upon discharge from prison by providing them with $50 and free transportation.


Background
Section 500.015 ( b) of the Government Code requires the state to provide inmates with suitable civilian clothing and $200 when discharged from state prisons: $100 upon release and $100 when they report to their parole officer on time. Inmates who have served their entire t erm or are released on parole out-of-state receive the entire $200 upon discharge. Before September 1, 1992, inmates were given $200 upon their discharge. 1

Although the Government Code allows the state to provide money to discharged inmates to defray their transportation costs, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) does not provide inmates transportation money as a normal operating procedure.

A survey of ten other states policies on release payments to inmates revealed that Texas is unusually generous. Only one other state provided $200. The other nine states provided $100 or less. Most of those surveyed also provided transportation for the inmates when discharged.

Parole officers must notify agency headquarters when a parolee has reported on time and is eligible to receive the additional $100. Checks are mailed to 65 parole offices to be distributed to parolees during their first scheduled visit with the parole officer, usually about a month after reporting for their initial visit. 2

Control and distribution problems may exist in the way in which the second $100 checks are handled. There is the possibility of theft, since parole officers may have several thousand dollars in release checks at any one time with minimal security for check storage. Checks may be lost and there are also problems associated with stopping payments and reissuing checks. Interviews with officials involved in the process suggest that the second distribution causes serious administrative problems and does not contribute si gnificantly to the rate at which individuals report to parole officers (already above 90 percent).

Because the TDCJ does not provide transportation, released inmates are expected to pay for transportation with the $100 they receive upon discharge. The amo unt of discretionary spending money remaining to the inmate after paying for transportation is determined by his destination. For example, an inmate who travels to Houston will pay $10 for bus fare and have $90 remaining. An inmate who must travel to Amar illo will pay $77 for bus fare and is left with $23. Inmates are released either from Huntsville or Gatesville.

Before September 1, 1992 the day release payment procedures changed and to a lesser extent after this date, some of the discretionary money lef t after paying for transportation was used to buy clothing because the clothing provided to the inmates upon release is of inferior quality and easily identifiable as prison-issued clothing.

Recommendation
The Legislature should amend the statute providing remuneration to inmates upon discharge from prison.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) should provide for transporting inmates by either issuing a voucher, providing prison buses or any other method TDCJ finds suitable. The civilian clothing p rovided to inmates upon release should be designed and manufactured so it cannot be recognized as prison-issued. Inmates will receive free transportation to their destination, upgraded civilian clothing and $50 spending money in place of the $200 they now receive, $100 of which would not be received until at least a month after release. To achieve the savings associated with this recommendation, the Legislature should reduce TDCJ s appropriation so that each released inmate is provided only $50 and free transportation.


Implications
This change would mean that Texas inmates would receive an amount of money similar to that provided in other states. Paying for released inmates transportation would ensure that every inmate has the same amount of discretionary money.

Less check handling and fewer accounting procedures and controls would be necessary since no second checks would be issued. A separate checking account recently opened by TDCJ for the issuance of the second checks could be closed. Reconciliation o f the additional 40,000 second checks issued each year would be eliminated. The change would also eliminate the need to mail checks to 65 different parole offices 35 times a year. Additionally, it would eliminate the cost of printing checks and additional bank service fees associated with the second checks. Finally, it will eliminate the cost of replacing lost checks.


Fiscal Impact
This would result in savings to the General Revenue Fund of $38.7 million during the next five years. No attempt has been mad e to estimate the savings from eliminating certain administrative procedures or the savings in mailing costs.

Fiscal Savings to the General Change
Year Revenue Fund (001) in FTEs

1994 $6,360,000 0
1995 8,093,000 0
1996 8,093,000 0
1997 8,093,000 0
1998 8,093,000 0



Endnotes
1 Interview with Larry Winkelman, Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division, Huntsville, Texas, November 18, 1992.
2 Ibid.