Cleveland prison renamed the Oliver J. Bell Unit in honor of former TBCJ chairman

The family of Oliver J. Bell attended the renaming ceremony of the Cleveland Correctional Center on March 6. The unit is now the Oliver J. Bell Unit in honor of the former chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.

In recognition of former Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ) Chairman Oliver J. Bell’s history of outstanding service to the state of Texas and the criminal justice system, the TBCJ has renamed the TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division’s Cleveland Unit to the Oliver J. Bell Unit. The name change passed by a unanimous vote taken at the December TBCJ meeting in Austin.

In his address to the board, current Chairman Dale Wainwright commented on the former chairman’s tenure with the agency and his reaction to the proposed name change: “The prior chair of this board, Oliver Bell, served well on the board for more than a decade and, as chairman, for more than seven years on the board. It is our honor to propose renaming a TDCJ facility in honor of Mr. Bell’s service as chair. I had the privilege of contacting Mr. Bell about this honor the board was very interested in bestowing on him, and he was thrilled.”

Oliver J. Bell, his wife, Stacee, and daughter, Annette, stand alongside a portrait that was painted by one of the prisoners at the Oliver J. Bell Unit in Cleveland. The portrait will be hung in a place of honor at the facility.

The renaming ceremony was held on Friday, March 6, with state and local dignitaries in attendance.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and former U.S. Army Ranger, Bell was appointed to the TBCJ and the Board of Trustees of Windham School District in 2004 by Governor Rick Perry. He worked on the Education, Human Resources, Victim Services, Business and Financial Operations and Health Care committees, and served as board secretary and vice-chairman before assuming the chairman’s duties in 2008.

In 2014, during the final year of Bell’s chairmanship, TDCJ was honored to accept the American Correctional Association’s (ACA) prestigious Golden Eagle Award in recognition of the full accreditation for all operations in every agency facility.

Bell is well known for visiting TDCJ facilities throughout the state, where he would meet with staff and discuss ways to improve their workplace. His commitment to building strong, healthy work environments extends to his business career as founder and chief executive officer of Oliver J. Bell Incorporated, a Houston-based human resources and labor relations consultancy firm.

About the Oliver J. Bell Unit

The Bell Unit is under the management of MTC and Warden Michael Upshaw. The minimum-security prison houses up to 520 inmates. The pre-release prison focuses on reducing the recidivism rate through entrepreneurial programs that help inmates get a successful start after finishing their sentences.

The Oliver J. Bell Unit is accredited by the American Correctional Association and was found to be 100 percent compliant in both mandatory and non-mandatory standards in the most recent audit.

The Bell Unit employs 121 people and adds $329,367 to the county’s revenue through taxes. It also spends more than $450,000 per year locally.

(Excerpts for this article were taken from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Connections publication)


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