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Agency News

March/April 2018
Volume 25 Issue 4

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Executive director’s update: Help end human trafficking in Texas

By Bryan Collier

TDCJ executive director Bryan Collier
Bryan Collier

Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings; literally, a modern-day form of slavery. This crime usually involves forced labor or sexual exploitation of vulnerable people, even children, by criminal predators.

With its busy international border crossings and diverse population, Texas is an attractive location for those who buy and sell people for profit. Studies at the University of Texas estimate that there are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, including 79,000 young victims of sex trafficking.

To protect vulnerable people and bring these would-be slaveholders to justice, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Texas has produced an important video which dispels the myths and describes the realities of human trafficking. “Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” explains how to help prevent trafficking, and how to recognize its warning signs so you can take appropriate action to stop it.

In addition, the Office of the Texas Governor has proposed training all state employees to recognize and report potential trafficking. The "Preventing Crime, Protecting Texans, Punishing Criminals" policy initiative proposes the creation of a new law-enforcement unit to pursue and arrest traffickers, and increased criminal penalties for anyone forcing a victim into prostitution.

Because TDCJ employees work in locations all around the state, from crowded cities to rural areas and the highways in between, we have a unique opportunity help stop human trafficking in Texas.

Nearly 25,000 Correctional Institutions Division (CID) employees at facilities all around the state have viewed the “Be the One” video, including CID staff who interview offenders during intake, and who might be the first to recognize the warning signs that an incoming offender might be a human trafficker.

Truckers Against Trafficking sticker image. 'Make The Call. Save Lives.' 1-888-373-7888.TDCJ’s Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics Division (MAL) has joined the Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) program, which teaches drivers and other trucking industry employees how to recognize and report domestic sex trafficking. TAT has contributed to an increase in the number of reports of possible human trafficking, resulting in more victim recoveries and criminal arrests. Through TAT training, MAL Division drivers, dispatchers, terminal managers and equipment operators will learn the characteristic behaviors of trafficking victims, common locations where trafficking occurs and how to report suspicious activity. Training posters will be placed at the agency’s truck terminals and TAT decals will be placed on the agency’s tractor trucks.

Parole Division staff members located all across the state work every day to help put an end to human trafficking. Nearly two thousand parole officers serve as trained witnesses to recognize the warning signs and report suspicious behavior. In addition, Parole Division executive staff has watched the OAG’s “Be the One” video and forwarded the program to many of the division’s 2,300 employees for viewing. Awareness and discussion of the human trafficking problem have significantly increased during Parole staff meetings, and many employees have taken the initiative to share the video with family, friends, as well as church and community groups.

TDCJ’s Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD) has, for years, trained community corrections professionals about human trafficking and its cruelties. In 2013, the Texas Office of the Attorney General conducted a workshop, in conjunction with CJAD’s Skills for Effective Supervision Conference, which examined factors and warning signs associated with the sex trade and human trafficking, and the subject was also covered in 2017 as part of the division’s Virtual Skills Conference. Guest speakers from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention provided information about human trafficking and the substance abuse issues associated with the sex trade. In addition, all CJAD staff members have viewed the “Be the One” video, and the program has been shared with all 123 local community supervision and corrections departments.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is TDCJ’s primary law enforcement and investigative entity, and OIG investigators are certified Texas Peace Officers trained to fight human trafficking, including victim identification and rescue techniques, victim assistance and service referrals, and incident investigation and prosecution. Using practical case studies, OIG investigators learn how to build a coordinated community response to fight human trafficking on a state, national and international scale. In addition to officer training, civilian OIG staff members viewed the “Be the One” video to learn how to recognize and prevent human trafficking.

Every day, OIG task force investigators and their colleagues work to disrupt and dismantle these organizations, and eliminate them as a threat to the citizens of Texas and the United States. OIG investigators also work with federal, state, and local agencies to combat human trafficking, and investigators assigned to multi-agency groups like Texas Anti-Gang Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces target criminal organizations and transnational gangs involved in almost every type of crime. These task forces coordinate law enforcement agencies who focus on exposing and putting an end to criminal activities like human trafficking and sexploitation.

I encourage every TDCJ staff member to “be the one” who takes up the fight against human trafficking by learning how to recognize the warning signs and take appropriate action so victims can escape their captivity and those who commit these terrible crimes are brought to justice.

The following warning signs may indicate that human trafficking may be occurring, but keep in mind that these are only warning signs and are not proof of a crime.

  • Victims are often restricted in movement and communications. Many are unable to ask for help.
  • Victims often avoid eye contact and have gaps in their memory.
  • Victims may resist physical contact and have visible bruises or scars. They often appear malnourished or show signs of addiction.
  • Victims typically have low self-esteem, and may seem depressed or anxious, with occasional angry outbursts.
  • Victims often have few possessions and live in an unstable or abusive home where they can be controlled by an older individual.
  • Traffickers can play the role of the victim’s parent, mentor or friend.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and both traffickers and their victims can be found in schools, playgrounds and other places frequented by young people.

If you are approached by an alleged victim, make sure they are safe, assure them they did the right thing by reaching out, and report the situation to law enforcement. Do not attempt to address the problem yourself.

If you suspect someone of human trafficking, inform law enforcement so they can make a proper investigation. You can also report suspected trafficking by calling the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400, the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or by contacting TDCJ’s Victim Services Division at 1-800-848-4284.

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TDCJ observes 19th Annual Fallen Officers Memorial in Huntsville

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice held its 19th annual Fallen Officers Memorial Ceremony on the Sesquicentennial Plaza at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, as part of National Correctional Officers and Employees Week.

This year’s May 11 ceremony held special significance as TDCJ honored the loss of Correctional Officer IV Shana R. Tedder of the Crain Unit in Gatesville, who lost her life in the line of duty after being involved in a use of force incident with an offender. Her TDCJ career began in 2005.

Keynote speaker and TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier said, “I ask for you to take a moment and notice the oak trees planted around the monument… this year, we’ll plant another tree. Tragically, Correctional Officer Shana Tedder passed away on June the ninth while working at the Crain Unit. Her co-workers and her brother will tell you her smile was infectious, her ability and energy to make people laugh was legendary. Ms. Tedder, you will be missed.”

Collier went on to say, “It’s normal to feel some sadness as we reflect back on those who laid down their lives. But they deserve more than our sorrow. They deserve our pride in the lives they led, our hope for the future, and our continued dedication to their work of making the state of Texas safer.”

Photo of PREA auditor standing with notepad and pen, speaking with 4 offenders seated at a table playing dominos.
Correctional Officer V James Polk, a member of the TDCJ Region II Honor Guard, stands with the engraved paver stone for Correctional Officer Shana Tedder during the 2018 Fallen Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Hunstville. The stone will be placed in the walkway of the Sesquicentennial Plaza.

Planted around the perimeter of the Plaza are 71 live oak trees that serve as living memorials of those TDCJ employees who have lost their lives in service to the citizens of Texas over the years.

Texas Board of Criminal Justice Member Patrick O’Daniel said, “As you walk through this memorial now and in the future, I ask you, do not feel sorrow. Instead feel joy and pride for those individuals we are remembering. Their lives had a purpose. They left a mark and their memories will live on. And now it is up to you to remember the fallen by the way you conduct yourselves professionally and personally.”

Similar memorial ceremonies were held throughout Texas and across the nation, as well as celebrations held in honor of the professional dedication of those who work in criminal justice, during National Correctional Officers and Employees Week, with many TDCJ units hosting luncheons and other special activities in appreciation of the hard work performed daily by agency employees.

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Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week begins July 15

The 2018 Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision (PPPS) Week takes place from July 15 to 21. During PPPS Week, we celebrate those criminal justice professionals who work to keep our neighborhoods safe and secure.

Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week 2018 banner. 'Restoring Trust. Creating Hope.' July 15-21, 2018.

The week is an opportunity for the agency and the public to recognize and honor the 1,400 TDCJ parole officers who oversee more than 83,000 offenders under active parole supervision, and more than 3,000 probation officers who directly supervise more than 230,000 felony and misdemeanor offenders in Texas.

This year’s theme, Restoring Trust and Creating Hope, underscores the continued need to develop and strengthen community partnerships and programs.

Parole Division Director Pamela Thielke commended both parole staff and allied supporters, saying “I have great appreciation for the commitment of parole staff who remain relentless in their effort to supervise the client population. The most effective supervision is made possible by strong partnerships, not only within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, but with others involved in the reentry and reintegration process. While we strive to ensure public safety, we do so by supporting the positive change of those we supervise, as well as holding them accountable for their negative behavior. Our work demands consistent courage, commitment, integrity and perseverance, and I believe Texas parole officers maintain these core values.”

Community Justice Assistance Division Director Carey Green noted that "Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision week is not only about the officers who directly supervise individuals in the community, but also about other staff who make probation successful. This is a week to recognize and celebrate our direct-care staff, counselors, program supervisors, clerical and administrative staff, along with many others who play critical roles in probation operations. Departments and programs are only as successful as all of the players who are responsible for public safety, reintegration and less victimization."

During Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week, agency parole offices will host a variety of activities in honor of their officers’ service. More information can be found at the American Probation and Parole Association website.

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TBCJ selects Cris Love as TDCJ Inspector General

New TDCJ Inspector General Cris Love.
Cris Love

At its April meeting in Austin, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice voted unanimously to approve the selection of Cris Love as Texas Department of Criminal Justice Inspector General, effective June 1. The Office of the Inspector General is an independent office which reports to the TBCJ and serves as TDCJ’s primary law enforcement and investigative unit.

Love began his law enforcement career in 1979 as a trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety, and subsequently worked as a game warden for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Love returned to DPS in 1987 where he helped conduct criminal investigations, first with the Narcotics section, then with the Texas Ranger Division. After investigating alleged misconduct at the Texas Youth Commission, he was eventually hired by the TYC Office of the Inspector General, where he was promoted to inspector general in 2009. In 2012, Love transferred to TDCJ’s Office of Inspector General as an investigation commander, and rose to the position of deputy director in 2013.

TBCJ Chairman Dale Wainwright commended Love’s law enforcement career and selection, saying, “His service to this state, and recently to this department, has been exemplary. We will continue to sleep comfortably at night knowing that you are the next inspector general for this department.”

Love has an associate degree in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice from Western Texas College in Snyder. Love also holds a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Master Peace Officer certification and Peace Officer Instructor certification.

Love replaces TDCJ Inspector General Bruce Toney, who served 24 years with the state of Texas.

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Clark selected as TDCJ Chief of Staff

TDCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark.
Jason Clark

Jason Clark has been named Chief of Staff for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, effective May 15. The Office of the Chief of Staff oversees Executive Services, Governmental Affairs, Media Services and the Emergency Action Center, and provides administrative support to the executive director and deputy executive director.

Clark began his career with the department as a Public Information Officer in 2006, advanced to director of the agency’s Public Information Office in 2013, and was named the agency’s deputy chief of staff in 2017.

Clark holds a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Sam Houston State University. Prior to coming to TDCJ, he worked as a producer, reporter and bureau chief at several news stations.

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Robinson named director of Parole Region II

TDCJ Chief of Staff Jason Clark.
Alethea Robinson

Alethea Robinson has been selected as the Region II director for the Parole Division, effective April 15. The Parole Division supervises offenders released from prison who are serving out their sentences in Texas communities.

Robinson has more than 21 years of criminal justice experience with the Parole Division, beginning her career as a parole caseworker at the Dallas III District Parole Office. She has held the positions of parole officer, unit supervisor, parole supervisor and assistant regional director.

Robinson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Southern University and A&M College, and a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Kaplan University.

Parole Division Director Pamela Thielke commended Robinson’s selection, saying, “Ms. Robinson’s experience includes a strong focus on oversight, training and staff relations. Please join me in congratulating Alethea as she assumes this new leadership role.”

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Bat houses near Huntsville “Walls” Unit ready for occupancy

For years, an old TDCJ cotton warehouse by the Huntsville ‘Walls’ Unit housed a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. The aging warehouse needs to be torn down, so a plan was devised to provide a new, dedicated bat housing adjacent to the old warehouse. This video tracks progress on the project.

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