2019 Legislation: State-Level Reforms Related to Correctional Confinement

It is important to protect the rights and well-being of people in state custody, both for their sake and for the safety and security of people who work in corrections facilities. The bills below will improve access to medical care, helping reduce spreadable infections, while also better preparing people for a safe reentry – and at the same time allowing incarcerated individuals to share their rehabilitative skills. Additionally, a bill that requires more data collection related to people with past foster care system involvement can inform strategies to reduce their flow into the justice system.

*** The bills with asterisks below were priority bills on TCJE’s legislative agenda.

*** HB 812 (Author: White | Sponsor: Whitmire), Relating to the amount of the health care services fee paid by certain inmates. A person incarcerated in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility who initiates a visit to a health care provider must pay $13.55 per visit as a health services fee, rather than a $100 annual fee; that fee amount is capped at $100 per state fiscal year. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

*** HB 3227 (Authors: Howard, Jarvis Johnson, Allen, White | Sponsor: Huffman), Relating to the availability of and access to certain programs and services for persons in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Certified peers are people who have lived experience of substance use disorder, mental illness, and/or incarceration, and who have been trained to provide recovery supports to other peers. The use of certified peers has been consistently shown to promote recovery among people with substance use disorder and mental illness, and research demonstrates that the model enables a more successful reentry transition for those being released from jail or prison to the community. This bill requires the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to adopt a policy to increase the availability of certified peer support services to individuals incarcerated in its facilities. The policy must:

  • allow for people who have previously been convicted of an offense to serve as certified peer specialists in a facility, including people currently on parole, mandatory supervision, or probation;
  • specify the conditions under which a person can serve as a certified peer specialist; and
  • allow for incarcerated individuals to serve in a peer support role, provided they are trained and supervised by a community-based organization.

In implementing the policy, TDCJ must collaborate with such community-based organizations that provide peer specialist training, including training a for certified peer specialist, a certified peer reentry specialist, a certified peer recovery specialist, or any other peer support specialty recognized by Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission. TDCJ must also encourage and help currently incarcerated individuals participate in training, with particular emphasis on those who have been involved with programs and services relating to substance abuse or behavioral health. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

Other, unrelated provisions of this bill are included in the section above titled “Women’s Justice Bills,” specifically in the sub-section on “State-Level Reforms.”

HB 1191 (Authors: Jarvis Johnson, Wu, Ramos, Morales | Sponsor: Whitmire), Relating to an annual report concerning the number of inmates who have been in the conservatorship of a state agency responsible for providing child protective services. Prior to passage of this bill, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) was required to annually report summarized statistical information on the total number of incarcerated individuals who had ever been in foster care. This bill expands the reporting requirement: TDCJ must now include the number of incarcerated individuals, broken down by age, who have not previously been imprisoned. Note: This bill will complement the efforts of HB 2229, which requires additional data collection on foster care youth in the juvenile justice system. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019