Overcrowded prisons force higher-risk offenders out to make room for incoming low-level offenders suffering from addiction.
Cutting diversion funding is an irresponsible approach to budget difficulties that will only exacerbate these problems, with negative long-term public safety consequences and the potential for taxpayers to shoulder the additional burden of costly prison and jail construction.
On the other hand, investing Texas' corrections dollars in the probation system will satisfy fiscal and public safety needs. More Texas offenders enter the probation system than prison or jail, and the numbers are rising. Sustaining the state's probation revocation rate as one of the lowest in the country through graduated, diversion-based sanctions is key to keeping crime rates down and saving taxpayers millions in incarceration costs in coming years.
According to Marty Griffith, director of the 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."
Ultimately, cost-cutting should come in the form of prison closures, just as other states have done in response to impending budget crises. In Texas, the Hilltop, Huntsville and Sugarland's Central units are each more than 100 years old; technologically ill-equipped and outdated, they are seeing inflated prisoner costs-per-day.
Generating savings through the closure of these inefficient facilities — or dangerously under-staffed facilities — will allow for additional investments in the state's cost-efficient and public safety-focused diversion infrastructure without necessitating that new prisons replace closed facilities down the road.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Correa: Preserve diversion funding, close prisons to cut TDCJ budget
Ana Yañez Correa of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has an op ed in the Austin Statesman today suggesting that budget cuts in corrections should come from closing inefficient prison units instead of cutting treatment and diversion programs. Here's how the column concludes: