All offenders are assigned a custody level when entering Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) system. The custody level determines the offender's housing assignment and amount of freedom. Once assigned, the custody level can change at any time depending on the offender's conduct and activities.
In the past the custody level was a fairly simple classification: Minimum-In, Minimum-Out, Medium-Custody, Close Custody, and Administrative Segregation. After seven inmates escaped from the John B. Connally Unit in December of 2000, the classifications changed to the rating system that is used today.
Assignment of Custody Level
When an offender enters TDCJ custody, the offender is given a custody designation which indicates several things. It tells where and with whom the offender can live, how much supervision the offender will need, and what job the offender can be assigned.
An offender's custody level depends on their current behavior in prison, their previous behavior while in jail, current offense, and sentence length. If the offender violates any rules, they may be placed in a more restrictive custody. If the offender obeys all the rules, the offender may be assigned a less restrictive custody level.
There are two differnet categories of custody levels: Institutational and State Jail.
Institutional Offender Custody Levels:
- Administrative Segregation (SR)
- General Population Level 5 (G5)
- General Population Level 4 (G4)
- General Population Level 3 (G3)
- General Population Level 2 (G2)
- General Population Level 1 (G1)
State Jail Offender Custody Levels:
- Administrative Segregation (SR)
- General Population Level 5 (J5)
- General Population Level 4 (J4)
- General Population Level 2 (J2)
- General Population Level 1 (J1)
Administrative segregation, or SR custody for state jail offenders, are offenders who must be separated from the general population because they are dangerous, either to other offenders or staff, or they are in danger from other offenders. Offenders who are gang members may be given this custody level. These offenders leave their cells only for showers and limited recreation time. Offenders assigned to administrative segregation in expansion cellblocks shower in their cells.
General Population Level 5
General population Level 5 (G5) or (J5) custody are offenders who have assault or some type of violent disciplinary records. G5 or J5 custody offenders live in their cells. They may not work outside the security fence without armed supervision. G5 is reserved for the most aggravated offenders. This is for those offenders that have security precaution designators such as escapes, assaults, or continued disciplinary problems.
General Population Level 4
General population Level 4 (G4) or (J4) custody are offender that must live in a cell, with few exceptions, and may work outside the security fence under armed supervision. J4 state jail offenders can live only in specific dorms. A G4 level can be assigned to new offenders if their conviction is for a violent crime, or they showed a pattern of violence in the "free world", or if the offenders has committed an assault on the staff or offenders while in prison during the past twenty four months.
General Population Level 3
General population Level 3 (G3) are offenders who may live in dorms or cells inside the main building only. G3 offenders cannot live in dorms outside the main building even though it is inside the security fence. G3 offenders can be assigned to field work or jobs inside the security fenced area. They may work outside the security fence only under direct armed supervision. State jail offenders are not assigned to level 3 custody. Level 3 custody is only for offenders serving sentences of 50 years or greater. G3 can be assigned to new offenders and people who have had a disciplinary case, or other types of problems.
General Population Level 2
General population Level 2 (G2) or (J2) custody are offenders who can live in either dorms or cells inside the security fence. Some units have dorms that are not in the building but still on prison campus inside the security fence. They may work outside the security fence under direct armed supervision. Most offenders are assigned this level. Most offenders with non-violent convictions will generally be assigned the G2 level.
General Population Level 1
General population Level 1 (G1) or (J1) are offenders that can live in dorms outside the security fence (meaning they can live outside of the prison fence). They can work outside the security fence with as long as an unarmed guard checks on them. G1 is the level every offender wants but very few offenders will actually get.
Some offenders in the general population can also be given a safekeeping status (P2 – P5) (PJ status for state jail inmates) if they need an added level of protection from other offenders. These offenders typically have a private room or cell due to physical or psychological issues which make the offender appear weak, vulnerable, or could be a target for victimization.
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