Conduct a Performance Review of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

A comprehensive performance review of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice should be conducted.


Background
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is responsible for operating state government s correctional institutions. TDCJ s role in the state criminal justice system recently has been examined in several reviews, including the Comptroller s Texas Crime, Texas Justice and Schools Behind Bars: The Windham School Report. In addition, the State Auditor plans to issue a management review of TDCJ, a prison construction report and a review of the Pardons and Parole Division of TDCJ. Each of these has been limited to an analysis of specific elements in the criminal justice sys tem.

Texas criminal justice system is fragmented, with its responsibilities and funding scattered among hundreds of state and local agencies, courts and police forces. All too often, relations among these entities are marked by conflict. There is no system-wide agreement on goals or strategic planning. Moreover, state and local funding are wasted on overlapping programs. The Texas Performance Review co ncluded, in the Texas Crime, Texas Justice report, that this fragmentation contributes to a continuous cycle of limited vision and quick-fix solutions. The report suggests that a more detailed analysis of the TDCJ functions is warranted. This is especially true as the department enters a new era, out from under the 20 years of federal court control stemming from the Ruiz lawsuit.

While administrative responsibility for criminal justice is divided among a number of state and local agencies, the system nonetheless functions as a single entity. Any change in one branch of Texas criminal justice system can profoundly affect its other branches. TDCJ, as the coordinator of correctional activities, is crucial to the success of an integrated, efficient and effective criminal justice system. Since TDCJ s consolidation, which combined three of the major components of the criminal justice system (parole, probation and corrections), there has not been a comprehensive review of the management, programs and performance of the agency.


Recommendation
A comprehensive performance review of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) should be conducted by the Texas Performance Review, the State Auditor or an independent firm during the next biennium, and the results should be reported to the Legislature.

The review should address such issues as eliminating program duplication, increasing coordination of criminal justice activities, exploring alternative sanctions and/or sentencing for offenders and better using agency resources.


Implications
A performance review should indicate if TDCJ is performing its duties adequately and which areas need improvement. Identification of strengths and weaknesses should enable the agency to provide the state with an improved criminal justice system.


Fiscal Impact
There is no quantifiable fiscal impact from this recommendation. While there would be some costs associated with conducting this study, the potential for additional administrative efficiencies and savings would be substantial.