Monday, February 15, 2010

Texas Closing Prisons?

Texas is considering closing prisons. That may not seem surprising at first blush. There are a number of states that have closed prisons including Michigan, Virginia and Missouri to name a few.

The lone star state has reveled in its reputation as America's leader in law and order. In the modern era of the death penalty Texas has executed 449 killers. Virginia is second with 105. In 1990, there were 35,000 inmates in Texas state prisons. Today, there are approximately 153,000 offenders in state prisons. Texas has 112 state prisons to house those inmates. Just a couple of years ago closing prisons in Texas would have been unthinkable.

The unthinkable is now on the table in Texas according to the Austin American-Statesman. "Closing prisons? It's absolutely on the table," said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jim McReynolds. "As tight as our budget situation looks, we cannot unravel the fledgling system of diversion and treatment programs that are paying big dividends now for the states. And there's only one other place to look — prison operations."

Not everyone agrees. "We certainly can't compromise public safety, and I'm opposed to closing prisons just to save a buck," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire.

Regardless of the action Texas takes it still appears to be a harbinger of what is to come as state budgets tighten and prisons continue to grow.

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