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Cuts Proposed to Criminal Justice and Mental Health Budgets

By Laura Nicholes
TAC Legislative Staff

The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) has released its estimates for the 2011 House Appropriations bill, and as anticipated, counties will need to closely monitor several items that could dramatically impact the local criminal justice system.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) may receive severe cuts, in the neighborhood of $65.44 million, to the front end of its budget for 2012 in comparison to 2011, specifically, to basic community supervision funding, diversion programs, community corrections and treatment alternatives to incarceration. Each of these four strategies are primarily funded by the state and implemented at the local level as preventative, long term, cost saving measures aimed at reducing recidivism, managing jail populations, providing courts with sentencing options and reducing commitments to state correctional facilities. State funding for each of these strategies is more cost effective and successful than incarceration. The difference between TDCJ’s 2011 budgeted amounts and the 2012 recommendations could result in the following cuts for the first year of the biennium:

  • $21.88 million from Basic Community Supervision;
  • $27.28 million from Diversion Programs;
  • $5.87 million from Community Corrections; and
  • $10.47 million from Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration Programs.

County jails could realize an increase in the number of Blue Warrant inmates, parolees who have violated conditions of their parole, due to an approximate $1.13 million reduction in parole revocation processing.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) budget was proposed to be cut approximately $349,000 from its Inspection and Enforcement line item. The agency requested full funding in the amount of $389,414 for each year of the biennium, keeping within range of amounts appropriated in previous budget cycles. State budget analysts, however, have recommended only $40,470 each year. At the agency’s August 2010 legislative budget hearing, budget and policy analysts openly suggested increasing county inspection and re-inspection fees to help supplement agency expenses — the idea was likened to a “user pays” system. Following the denial of the agency’s request for full funding, the Legislative Budget Board included Rider No. 2 in the agency’s appropriation, directing the commission to collect approximately $288,200 each year of the biennium from counties for the use of agency inspection services and certification of county jails.

The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is starting out about $228 million short on its total 2012-2013 base budget estimates for community mental health services. Reductions in community mental health care will have a direct impact on local jails, hospitals, emergency rooms and other local resources as local governments and taxpayers are left with the burden of providing needed services and funding for those services to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Total budget reductions recommended for the DSHS 2012-2013 biennium are:

  • $9 million from community mental health crisis and transitional services (6 percent reduction);
  • $116 million from adult mental health services (20 percent reduction);
  • $25.3 million from children’s mental health services (19 percent reduction);
  • $23.5 from community substance abuse services (8 percent reduction);
  • $32.12 million from state mental health hospitals (4 percent reduction); and
  • $1.75 million from community mental health hospitals (3 percent reduction).
For additional information on this article, please contact TAC Legislative Staffer Laura Nicholes at (800) 456-5974 or .