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TDCJ News

Summaries of Selected Legislation Passed by the 87th Legislature, Regular Session

HB 5 by Rep. Trent Ashby - Relating to the expansion of broadband services to certain areas. The new law will encourage the broadband development office to examine broadband service needs relating to public safety, which includes the needs of TDCJ, when developing the state broadband plan that establishes long-term goals for greater access to and adoption, affordability, and use of broadband service in this state.

HB 30 by Rep. James Talarico - Relating to educational programs provided by the Windham School District (WSD) in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for certain inmates. This new statute will require Windham School District to consider a high school diploma option for all students younger than 18 years old and younger than 22 years old if receiving special education services.

HB 54 by James Talarico - Relating to accompanying and filming peace officers of state and local law enforcement agencies for producing reality television programs. This law will prohibit TBCJ OIG from authorizing a person to film peace officers acting in the line of duty for the purpose of creating a reality television program.

HB 385 by Rep. Leo Pacheco - Relating to conditions of community supervision and procedures applicable to the reduction or termination of a defendant's period of community supervision. The new law changes a court’s authority to impose conditions relating to community supervision, including removal of a trial court’s authority to impose the discretionary condition that a defendant must avoid persons or places of disreputable or harmful character. A judge may waive the educational program requirement if one is successfully completed at a residential treatment facility.

HB 624 by Rep. Hugh Shine - Relating to increasing the criminal penalty for certain offenses committed in retaliation for or on account of a person's service or status as a public servant. This new law would increase the penalty for those who harass, intimidate, threaten, stalk, damage property, or trespass on property belonging to a public servant or their family, including correctional officers, TDCJ staff, and current and honorably retired OIG staff.

HB 719 by Rep. James White – Relating to Texas Department of Criminal Justice transfer facilities. The bill eliminates statutory references to a “transfer facility” as the concept has become obsolete in relation to current intake and housing assignment procedures. Units will no longer be labeled as transfer facilities. By eliminating all statutory references to a “transfer facility”, the agency will be better able to manage inmate housing assignments and program placement.

HB 721 by Rep. Terry Wilson - Relating to the release to mandatory supervision of certain inmates confined in a county jail. With this new law, TDCJ must provide notice to a victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim that the inmate is eligible for release from a county jail to mandatory supervision. This will give those individuals a chance to submit a written statement to the parole panel considering the inmate’s release within 14 days of receiving the notice.

HB 757 by Rep. Harold Dutton - Relating to the consequences of receiving a grant of deferred adjudication community supervision and successfully completing the period of supervision. For individuals who have successfully completed deferred adjudication, this law would prohibit the denial of professional or occupational licenses for those who are qualified, except in limited circumstances.

HB 954 by Rep. Harold Dutton - Relating to certain contract and notice requirements applicable to certain facilities used to house inmates or releasees from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and to the transfer of certain real property held by the department. The law authorizes the transfer of 28.157 acres from TDCJ to the City of Burnet. This new law requires TDCJ to require an applicant seeking to participate as a provider of alternative housing for two or more unrelated releasees in a county with a population of 3.3 million or more to submit with the application copies of a permit or other documentation showing that the proposed alternative housing facility is in compliance with all applicable municipal and county regulations. It also specifies information TDCJ is required to maintain regarding facilities providing such housing and releasees housed at the facilities and requires TDCJ, on request of a county or municipality, to provide that information monthly by secured email and in a machine-readable format.

HB 978 by Rep. Will Metcalf - Relating to authorizing the comptroller to release a reported owner's unclaimed property to the owner's crime victim in certain circumstances and payment by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice of certain amounts owed by an inmate. Under certain circumstances, the new law requires TDCJ to file a claim for unclaimed property with the Comptroller of Public Accounts who operates the Unclaimed Property Program on behalf of the victim of a criminal offense who is due compensation.

HB 1278 by Rep. Liz Campos - Relating to public hearings on homelessness issues held by the Texas Interagency Council for the Homeless. According to this new law, the Texas Interagency Council for the Homeless will hold public hearings on homelessness issues annually in at least one rural and one urban located county. As a member agency of the Council, the TDCJ will attend and participate in the public hearings.

HB 1307 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez - Relating to the care of pregnant women in county jail or in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. To comply with this new law, the TDCJ and county jails are to ensure that appropriate health care professionals promptly review the health care services provided to an inmate as soon as practicable after receiving a report of a miscarriage or physical or sexual abuse of a pregnant inmate, including the provision of mental health services.

HB 2352 by Rep. Tan Parker - Relating to an educational and vocational training pilot program for certain state jail felony defendants and certain inmates released on parole; changing par ole eligibility.  This new law modifies the TDCJ’s educational and vocational training pilot program by expanding this opportunity to more state jail felons and certain inmates released on parole. TDCJ and BPP will have to identify at least 100 inmates annually who would be suitable program participants.

HB 3157 by Rep. Ron Reynolds - Relating to the criminal offenses of violation of civil rights of and improper sexual activity with persons in custody; increasing a criminal penalty. This new law increases the penalty for violating a person in custody’s civil rights from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. It also increases the penalty for improper sexual activity with persons in custody from a state jail felony to a second-degree felony unless the offense is improper sexual activity with a juvenile in custody which will be a first-degree felony.

HB 3606 by Rep. Jeff Leach - Relating to the provision of vocational training to inmates confined in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice transfer facility.  TDCJ will be required by this new law to adopt a policy under which a representative of a public or private entity, including a public or private institution of higher education, may provide vocational training on a voluntary basis to inmates confined in transfer facilities.

HB 4279 by Rep. Alex Dominguez - Relating to the eligibility of the Windham School District (WSD) to participate in the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Grant Program. WSD provides educational services to inmates in the custody of TDCJ. This new law would benefit student inmates by providing the opportunity for WSD to be awarded funds through the JET grant program. The JET program provides grants to eligible educational institutions to assist in the costs associated with career and technical education programs.

SB 22 by Sen. Drew Springer - Relating to certain claims for benefits, compensation, or assistance by certain public safety employees and survivors of certain public safety employees. The new law expands the death and disability benefits potentially available to certain public employees who contracted Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS­CoV­2) or Coronavirus Disease (COVID­19) in the line of duty. The law will apply to certain TDCJ employees who contracted COVID at work. Under this new law, those who have been previously denied claims may resubmit for consideration.

SB 312 by Sen. Joan Huffman - Relating to the punishment for the criminal offense of improper sexual activity with a person in custody; increasing a criminal penalty. This new law makes any improper sexual activity with a person in custody a second-degree felony.

SB 321 by Sen. Joan Huffman - Relating to contributions to, benefits from, and the administration of the Employees Retirement System (ERS) of Texas. To address the unfunded liability of $14.7 billion, Texas lawmakers passed this new law to improve the solvency of ERS by establishing a new cash balance benefit retirement plan for new state employees and the elected class starting on or after September 1, 2022.

SB 510 by Sen. Charles Perry - Relating to the transfer of certain state property from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to Stephens County.  TDCJ will transfer 288.8 acres from the Walker Sayle Unit to Stephens County.