Alumnus Oversees Largest Prison System in U.S.

Deputy Executive Director Bryan Collier, TDCJ
Deputy Executive Director Bryan Collier, TDCJ

Bryan Collier (’86) began his career at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) manning the switchboard while a student at Sam Houston State University. Now 28 years later, he is second in command at the state agency that oversees the largest adult prison, parole and probation system in the country.

“Bryan Collier represents a dedicated, committed, and visionary correctional professional highly focused on the mission of public safety recognizing the critical importance of leadership in effective management, supervision, and reentry,” said Doug Dretke, Executive Director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT).

Texas Department of Criminal Justice sealCollier is Deputy Executive Director of TDCJ, a statewide system that manages 150,000 offenders, 77,000 parolees, 430,000 probationers, and 37,000 employees in Texas. During his career, he has seen the evolution of the system from prison overcrowding -- where many offenders were paroled from county jails because of a lack of room at state prisons – to a “balanced agency” with lower recidivism rates and smaller prison populations because of effective programs, better parole supervision, and diverse diversion tools for judges to control offender’s behavior in the community.

“I have seen the system grow and consolidate,” said Collier. “TDCJ is in a very good place at this time and is really in balance. Recidivism rates and the prison population are down. It really takes a system approach combined with research based practices. The days are gone where you come with an idea and just do it.”

Collier was Director of Parole at TDCJ.
After getting a degree in 1986 from Sam Houston State University, Collier wanted to be a lawyer and took a job as a correctional officer and institutional parole officer in Houston to fund the endeavor. But after interviewing offenders being considered for release, he found his calling in corrections and never looked back.

“It was totally consuming, and I totally enjoyed it,” said Collier. “I got to put the offenders’ stories together and identify what was fact and what was fiction. Every day was different, and they all had different stories. I also identified what their needs were in the community and what the issues were that needed to be addressed. It was fun working with people and to see them succeed.”

A group counseling session at the Halbert Unit.
A group counseling session at the Halbert Unit.
In 1994, Collier switched from parole to programs and services within the institutions, including therapeutic treatments for substance abuse and sex offenders as well as the chaplaincy program. He helped supervise and develop the programs.
Collier later returned to the Parole Division and rose to the position of Director in 2002. Five and a half years later in 2007, he was appointed as Deputy Executive Director for the entire agency.

“The system has evolved and has grown -- it is a very large system, but it is working together very well” said Collier. “The recidivism rate is down to 22.6 percent, and programs have helped the prison population decline. We were able to close three prisons because of the effectiveness of program delivery, parole supervision, and diversions and by providing tools for judges to address the behavior of offenders.”

Correctional officers in training.Collier continues to have a close relationship with Sam Houston State University, which he credits with giving him a “solid foundation” and experience in the field. He shares his passion for correctional excellence as a presenter for the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT) in their Mid-Management Leadership Program providing leadership and management insights and guidance to mid-level and senior correctional supervisors. He serves as a tremendous resource to CMIT, working with them to develop new programs and training within the corrections profession.

Collier also works with faculty at the College of Criminal Justice with ongoing research projects to provide the scientific evidence that has become the hallmark of successful programs. He also works with faculty and staff in the community in activities like church and Boys Scouts.

Collier serves as a presenter for CMIT's Mid Management training.
Collier serves as a presenter for CMIT's Mid Management training.
Collier said the experience and curriculum he received from SHSU sparked his interest in many different aspects of the correctional field. He said professors at the College have both academic knowledge and practical experience and take a personal interest in your success. For example, Dr. George Beto, whom the Criminal Justice Center is named for, referred him to the switchboard job because of the experience it provided – as well as the downtime to study.

“If you get a degree in criminal justice, it should be from SHSU,” Collier said. “It is extremely well-known in the field and prepares you for a career in criminal justice. I didn’t expect to be at TDCJ 28 years later, but none of my career has felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again. My career has advanced well beyond my expectations. The agency is a great place to work and has a mission you can be proud to help achieve, and I will always have a spot in my heart for Sam Houston State University.”

Member of The Texas State University System