Thursday, November 11, 2010

Texas Backtracks on Prison Closings

Not long ago, Texas was exploring the possibility of closing prisons. Texas is America's "law and order" state. The Lone Star state has carried out more than a third of all executions nationwide. The idea that Texas would reduce its prison population came as a shock. I wrote about closing Texas prisons earlier this year,

Faced with a $20 billion budget shortfall, the Texas legislature proposed closing some state prisons to save money. Much was made of Texas' reinvestment in treatment as opposed to prison construction. However, those prisons that were nearly empty have slowly begun to fill-up.

Since May, when 153,977 inmates were housed in Texas’ 112 state prisons, the number has grown to 155,022 inmates, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Texas policymakers cannot agree on the reasons for prison growth, most agree that if the trend continues, it could make decisions about cutting state spending even more difficult.

The Express-News reasoned that full prisons cannot be closed without releasing inmates, a politically unthinkable solution. That leaves treatment and rehabilitation programs — two areas where Texas has expanded its funding and has been successful in recent years at reducing its prison population — as the likely targets for significant cuts.

Texas, not long ago, touting its cutting edge treatment programs is now in the unenviable position of slashing those very programs.

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