State Inmate Readjustment Project to be Cut

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials confirmed to NewsWest 9 that they are cutting Project RIO, or Reintegration of Offenders, at the end of this fiscal year.

It's a program that prisoners can enter into near the end of their sentences that helps give them employment and educational counseling as well as helping them hunt down the proper IDs (i.e. driver's licenses, social security cards, birth certificates) to get a job once they're released.

Now it's uncertain who will pick up the slack from its absence.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said cutting RIO will help take a chunk out of the state's need to cut $40 million in spending but those who worked in the program are now without a job.

"That will save about $1.5 million," TDCJ Public Information Officer, Jason Clark, said. "And that comes out to 155 full-time employees. We'll have a reduction in force."

And the services RIO provided inmates will have to be taken on some other way.

"Many of those activities as far as getting documentation and IDs and those things will be taken over by other departments within TDCJ," Clark said.

But for Workforce Solutions of the Permian Basin, their future with local inmates could be up in the air.

Workforce Solutions and 28 other organizations across the state have a contract with the Texas Workforce Commission to participate in Project RIO, helping prisoners get jobs once they're out, which is already a challenge.

"You have to find that niche employer," Willie Taylor, CEO of Workforce Solutions of the Permian Basin, said. "Working in a daycare or working with electrical companies, normally there's a restriction."

And with Project RIO's extra dollars gone, the number of inmates they aid could become limited.

"You betcha I am concerned about those cuts," Taylor said. "We have Project RIO dollars out there. If you cut those dollars out, could be pretty tough because we only have so many dollars to serve so many people."

The loss in money isn't known yet, it's wait-and-see. But this cut won't stop Workforce Solutions from doing what they can with what they have.

"They'll be treated just like our general population," Taylor said. "We will continue to serve that population."

Clark also wanted to clarify that as far as the job losses go, public safety won't be compromised. He said the cuts won't come to correctional, parole, or any other officers, just those working within the Department on RIO.

NewsWest 9 tried asking how this would affect police officers in both Midland and Odessa but they either didn't know or said they wouldn't be affected.