2. Texas Closing Prisons?

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In a February 11 (2010) memo from Restorative Justice Ministries, we learn that since the recent recession hit in 2008, thirty-five correctional centers in other states have been closed. Most Texans know that each area of the state's budget has been asked to cut back by 5 per cent. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D-Houston) says: "We certainly can't compromise public safety and I'm opposed to closing prisons just to save a buck." However, the number of imprisoned adult Texans has been trending down and the system now has 2,300 vacant beds. Also, Texas' youth prison system housed almost 5,000 five years ago and it now holds only 1,700. Thus, Whitmire added: "But come January 2011, if we're still seeing a downturn in prison population, then we should be looking at closing some of the old, inefficient, poorly designed units as long as it doesn't compromise public safety. Strategically, that could be really smart."

Considering more Texas offenders are entering the probation system than prison (and that number is rising), there is more hope on this front. Marty Griffith (Director, Williamson County Community Supervision and Corrections Department): "Because of the work of CSCDs across Texas, we have prevented three new prisons from being constructed - and having to operate three new prisons is something the state obviously cannot afford to do. But we have also eliminated the need for prison construction without jeopardizing public safety."

 

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