Wednesday, December 7, 2011

TDCJ adds 2,000 beds as agency deals with consequences of budget cuts without policy reform

 From our friends at the Grits for Breakfast Blog;

At the Austin Statesman, Mike Ward has a piece today ("Prison cuts prove fleeting") on the predictable outcome from reducing incarceration budgets without simultaneously enacting policies to reduce the number of prisoners locked up. The story opens:

Last summer, when tough-on-crime Texas closed its first prison ever, legislative leaders were jubilant over downsizing one of the nation's largest corrections systems by more than 1,000 beds. It was a first big step, they said, toward saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in coming years.

Meanwhile, prison officials were adding bunks to the other 111 state prisons, which house more than 156,000 convicts. By last week, Texas had about 2,000 more prison bunks than it did a year ago, thanks to a state law that reguires the prison system to maintain some excess capacity as a cushion against crowding.

Because those beds will likely fill up — empty prison beds almost always do — Texas taxpayers could be in line for some whopping additional costs come 2013.
At least TDCJ didn't add additional beds by contracting with private prisons, which was an option the Lege had left open. But cuts to probation programming made it all but inevitable that recent reductions in the incarceration rate won't be replicated over the next biennium. Even the Legislative Budget Board predicts (pdf) the number of Texas prisoners will rise beyond capacity before the 83rd session in 2013.

See the rest of the story here ! 

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