Friday, January 28, 2011

'Six Impossible Things': Do you believe in a conservative, rational, and smaller corrections budget?

Today in Texas, state and county government directly supervises around one in 22 adults in prison, in jail, on probation or on parole. Being "tuff on crime" is part of the state's self-promoted persona, one which has garnered bipartisan consensus for decades in support of political and policy decisions that took a "money is no object" approach to crime and punishment. Facing a $15-$27 billion budget gap, that road has now abruptly ended, and state leaders must chart a new path.

The other day I quoted the White Queen from Through the Looking Glass, who famously told Alice that, in her youth, she was capable of believing no fewer than six impossible things before breakfast. Following that theme, this post details Six Impossible Things about corrections policy that the Texas Legislature must come to believe before breakfast on the morning of Sine Die (the session's final day) if their aim is to pass a conservative, rational, and smaller corrections budget:

#1 Prison closures aren't just possible but necessary
It's been said many times, by many different people: Texas has never closed a prison since the first one  opened its doors in 1846, and it never will. There's always a first, though, and it looks like the Central Unit in Sugar Land will be the breakthrough case to disprove that rule, after which I'd expect to see more units follow it to the chopping block.

Beyond the Central Unit, there are several categories of facilities that might reasonably be considered for closure: Older units with higher per-inmate costs. Units with ongoing security problems (Mineral Wells comes to mind; at the Central Unit trusties went on shopping trips to the local Walmart). And units that have chronic trouble maintaining adequate staffing - the unit in Dalhart, for example. In addition, Texas leases more than 11% of its capacity from private prison companies and those contracts could be reduced or eliminated more quickly than state-owned units could be mothballed and sold. In any event, 80%+ of TDCJ's budget is spent running prisons but the agency has focused nearly all its budget cut suggestions on community supervision and treatment. LBB has already warned the Legislature that strategy won't work.

#2 Texas can safely incarcerate fewer low-risk, nonviolent offenders
There are two main categories of nonviolent offenders in TDCJ, both of which particularly predominate in state jails (Texas' equivalent of a fourth degree felony): Drug and property offenders. Pick your poison. For drug offenders, the most obvious and elegant cost saving approach for both the state and local jurisdictions would be to ratchet down criminal charges on drug crimes by one level, as described in detail here and here - not decriminalization but reducing penalties to focus limited resources to house more serious, dangerous offenders.

The other main category of nonviolent offenders are those incarcerated for theft. Texas' theft categories were set in 1993, but have never been adjusted for inflation. That means that if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2008 and 1993, they would cost you $1,500 and $1,027 respectively. Since $1,500 is the threshold where theft is treated as a state-jail felony, every year as inflation rises it becomes a felony to steal less and less stuff. Adjusting theft thresholds annually (the same way all sorts of things are pegged to the annually updated federal poverty levels, for example) would serve the twin purposes of a) diverting more low-level property offenders from state prisons and b) preserving the original intent of the statute.

Nonviolent offenders can be diverted through probation programs on the front end, their offense levels adjusted as described above, or they could be released more frequently on a discretionary basis by the parole board (arguably the least likely scenario) to make room for prisoners who've committed more serious crimes. If significant population reductions are to be achieved, they must come from this category.

#3 Incarcerating more people costs more money
OK, this is only an "Impossible Thing" to believe if you work for the Legislative Budget Board. Historically, the LBB has labeled "insignificant" the extra cost of bills sending new prisoners to TDCJ, increasing incarceration lengths, etc., which gave so-called enhancement bills what's known in capitol parlance as a "zero fiscal note." This useful fiction is a much-desired designation because it means a bill can pass without budget writers having to appropriate extra money to pay for any additional prisoners headed to TDCJ. Already since bill filing began in the 82nd Texas Legislature, dozens of suggestions for new crimes, increased penalties and unfunded mandates related to law enforcement are coming out of the woodwork. These legislators do not yet believe Impossible Thing #3, but somehow, some way, that spendthrift mentality must change.

In reality, as Grits readers are well aware, every extra prisoner brings significant cost. Texas leases extra beds from private prisons in addition to the units the state owns outright. So, because beds are fungible, the marginal cost of every extra prisoner equals the cost of the last prison bed leased. Using that calculation, at a (conservative) rate of $17,000 per prisoner-year, an "enhancement" bill that would send just 20 extra people to prison for two years - a day-for-day state jail felony sentence - would cost $680,000 (multiplying 20 x $17,000 x 2 years). Just because LBB puts a zero on that fiscal note doesn't mean that, when the extra prisoners show up, TDCJ won't be obligated to find somewhere to put them.

Since the Texas penal code was overhauled in 1993, every session the Texas Legislature has created dozens of new crimes and increased criminal penalties, often under narrow circumstances at the behest of special interests. Many of these Orwellian-termed "enhancements" make petty offenses into felonies - e.g., graffiti on a school or church (where kids mostly are), theft of a $35 goat - that should be misdemeanors and waste both court and incarceration resources beyond any measurable public safety benefit.

Committee chairs in both chambers should require that anyone proposing a new crime or increased criminal penalties must either a) convince the relevant budget committees to pay for it or b) simultaneously reduce other penalties to avoid boosting overall incarceration levels. That shouldn't be that difficult, and we'd still see some enhancements pass, but at least it would make legislators begin to think about budget implications and force them to pay as they go.

When you find yourself stuck in a hole you can't get out of, the first thing to do is stop digging. Seriously, folks. Stop.

#4 Community supervision is still punishment
Texas' incarceration fetish stems in part from widespread portrayals by the media and tuff-on-crime opinion leaders that probation is a cake walk. It is not. Many offenders actually choose jail time because probation requirements are more onerous than sitting in jail. But in the end, success under supervision is necessary for all of us to be safer, because most people who go to prison are released. It may seem impossible, but legislators must come to believe there are other viable punishments than prison. Because the per-offender costs are so much cheaper, investments in community supervision get far more bang for the buck than paying for prison beds.

Successfully completing community supervision can be far more challenging (and rewarding) than sitting out an incarceration stint - especially if probation comes with alcohol/drug treatment or other programming that requires the offender to actually change their behavior. Yes, there are folks who are so dangerous there's no real alternative but to lock them away from the rest of us. But strong, evidence-based probation has the benefit of a) avoiding much greater incarceration expenses and b) minimizing recidivism risks associated with reentry. Equally important, victim restitution is much more likely for probationers, a factor I often think is undervalued in punishment decisions on drug and property offenses.

All things considered, forcing offenders to live up to their own responsibilities in the real world often can be tougher than giving them a "time out" at the taxpayers' expense without ever forcing someone to change their ways.

As the LBB has recognized, community-based diversion programming created in 2007 is the main reason Texas hasn't already required 17,000 new prison beds. Eliminating those programs now would boost incarceration costs, not reduce them. As a local probation director bluntly told the Amarillo Globe-News, "If I lose things, it's going to mean more people going to prison." He's right; that's what happened in 2003. That's why, rather than eliminate those programs, the best bet for cutting corrections safely is precisely to expand on the success of Texas' 2007 probation reforms. We must improve our ability where possible to achieve the goals of punishment through community supervision for lower-risk offenders.

#5 Releasing people is what prisons do, so we must do reentry better
Nobody thinks Rick Perry's Texas isn't tough on crime, but every single year, Texas releases between 70-75,000 felons back into the free world. About half of these have completed their sentences and leave with no community supervision; the rest are released on parole. Roughly 97% of incarcerated offenders are ultimately released. From the perspective of public safety, then, what often matters most isn't whether the offender did three years or five, but whether they return to their communities able to contribute to the tax base and participate constructively in society.

Facilitating support from family and help finding employment are the biggest contributing factors to whether an offender returns to prison in a few years, but the House and Senate budgets entirely eliminate Project RIO, which is the main (admittedly deficient) state program for helping offenders get jobs. Every offender who finds employment and begins to contribute to the economy instead of suck from the teat of the nanny state (and prison, where government pays for three hots and a cot plus healthcare, is the ultimate nanny state) represents a tremendous boon to the state budget.

Another strong argument for earlier parole dates: Drug use during the early reentry process is a strong predictive factor for recidivism. In that light, releasing folks with at least minimal parole supervision would probably be a good idea, if only so they'll get UAs during the early months after release and treatment options if they need it. Half of offenders released each year (those who served their time day for day without parole) simply don't get any oversight at all when they enter the free world, whereas if they'd been released a year or two earlier they'd have reported periodically to a parole officer (not to mention cost the state less money).

This is an example where being tougher doesn't make us safer.

#6 The prison bureaucracy is not the best judge of its own inefficiencies
TDCJ is, first and foremost, a government bureaucracy that runs prisons. The idea that the best approach to doing its job might be to close prisons and focus on community supervision (which is run by local bureaucracies they can't completely control), well, that's just one of those "Impossible Things" to believe if you are a TDCJ bureaucrat. With the exception of closing the Central Unit, the House budget as filed largely aligns with suggestions from the Department of Criminal Justice's own proposals for what and how to cut. As you'd expect from any arm of government, TDCJ has suggested budget cuts that protect its own institutional, bureaucratic prerogatives, but at the expense of the public weal.

TDCJ has been asked to live within a budget more than $1 billion shy of its estimated need for the next biennium. If the agency closes the Central Unit as a lone, symbolic homage to frugality but cuts the rest from probation and parole, rest assured the agency will be back in two years with their largest budget request in history, telling legislators they "have no choice" because so many new prisoners are coming in the door. And by then it may be true - that is, if legislators continue to follow the agency's advice in the current round of budgetmaking. Today, though, right now, they still have a choice: Prioritize spending based on maximizing public safety per dollar spent, or ensure that corrections costs continue to spiral upward until some future Legislature finds the gumption to take up the challenge.

Like Fox Mulder in the old X-Files series, I want to believe.

See related, recent Grits posts:

    34 comments:

    JTP said...

    Scott,

    Well written summary. I think there is the added factor of the prison related lobbyists which presure legislatures either through the ballot box or the bank account to maintain the status quo and in some cases lock it in with new laws. While the budget crisis has many down sides to it, it does present a possability to take a new and better direction for prison policy as much as it presents the opportunity to be politically safe but morally and fiscally foolish. Your analysis is right-on. We can't eliminate the politics, but we can educate the politicians. Maybe it will get shared with the right minds. Let us Pray it is so. Thanks for your leadership in this area. JTP

    Nequam Compleo said...

    #4 Community supervision is still punishment:
    I had two options. 4 years probation or 6 months state jail. I had already been in the county jail for 4 months, so this was a no brainer. Also, the probation costs to me would have been over $200 per month just in fees to the county. I was already out of work as it was, so I wouldn't have been able to pay the fees to begin with. Sometimes it just makes more sense to actually spend the time in jail than it is to take the probation.

    #5 Releasing people is what prisons do, so we must do reentry better:
    I've been out for over 8 months. I have had 3 job offers in my field. All were rescinded after the background check. I told the truth about my conviction and the circumstances to no avail. I understand what I did, why I did it, and I accept the consequences of my actions. But the other side of the equation is that now it's almost impossible for me to find employment. If it weren't for the fact that I'm married and had a home to come back to I'd probably be on the streets right now. I met alot of men who were being released from the state jails that literally had no where to go upon their release because there was no supervision after release.

    Charlie O said...

    Nequam Compleo,

    Welcome to the CHRISTIAN nation called the United States, where belief in forgiveness and redemption is so overwhelming.

    You're a convict bud, and the state of Texas and probably most of the rest of this country is never gonna let you forget it. Get used to flipping hamburgers, cause that's all they're ever gonna let you do. Hell you ain't even qualified to be a janitor. A friend of mine got fired from being a janitor at Motorola for a 18 year old (yeah, 18 years) drug conviction.

    Your best bet, try to get the hell out of here. My sister moved to China from Houston 5 years ago and loves it. I'm giving real hard thought to following her cause this place blows.

    Nequam Compleo said...

    Charlie O:
    Actually, can't even do that! McDonalds and Wendys both said no because of what I normally do for a living. I was overqualified to flip burgers for them. They were afraid that I'd find a job in the field I was normally in and then leave. Walmart won't hire me. Home Depot and Lowes won't hire me. For people like me, who have skills and the ability to make decent money, the felony on the record is more of a punishment than the time locked up. I've been out now longer than I was in and I do the same things pretty much every day. I don't go anywhere because we can't afford the gas. I sit around the house all day watching TV and reading. The biggest differences right now are that I can eat when I want, change the channel without having to fight over the remote, and dress how I want. I will continue to "do my time" until I can honestly check NO to the question of "Have you been convicted of a felony in the past 7 years?"
    Like I said. I did something wrong. I accept the punishment that was given to me. I did the time with no issues and came home with no intention of ever doing anything like this again. But right now I am NOT a productive member of society. I'm not able to contribute anything to my household. I'm not able to take care of my family financially right now.
    I know it will eventually get better. This time will pass and life will move along again.

    Anonymous said...

    Couple of questions, Grits. What percentage of the current state budget do criminal justice expenditures comprise? Second, has this percentage gone up or down in the last 10 years relative to other portions of the state budget---like education, medicaid, etc.? Just curious.

    Anonymous said...

    Nequam Compleo..

    you need to check out DARS(Dept of Rehabilitative Services) and also, hard2hire.com

    A Texas PO said...

    Scott,

    Thanks so much for this post! There is so much panic going on in the probation offices around the state right now because Brad Livingston and the idiots under him need to keep those under-performing prisons open and are not listening to Carey Welebob and Stuart Jenkins. From the budget proposal submitted to us, it even looks like our substance abuse treatment options for felons in SAFPF and ISF are going to be cut. We just received an expansion for these services in 2007 because they were (and still are) successful (or at least more so than the prisons). The problem that frustrates me is that probation works, even if offenders don't want it. Judges know this. Attorneys know this. Hell, even offenders know this! The results of these cuts are going to mean more offenders placed on probation to be supervised by fewer probation officers, which will lead to less direct supervision, more technical violations, and more revocations for technical violations. So we'll have fewer employed probation officers who won't be contributing to the state's coffers, along with more inmates drawing on the social welfare of TDCJ (oh my, socialism in Texas? tell me it ain't so!), fewer employed (and tax-paying) parole officers to supervise the few who are paroled which means less supervision for them and potentially more crime and victimization. Did common sense get outlawed in Texas without a press release? I get that we are all in a budget crunch and no agency in the state is immune to this, but why is it always the things that make sense are always "impossible?"

    Gritsforbreakfast said...

    10:38: Corrections and public safety are the third largest spending area of state government, (way) behind education and healthcare. But those have also been asked to take serious haircuts. (The House budget proposes cutting state funding for public schools by 23%.) So to make up the shortfall, virtually every high-dollar area of government must take a budget cut. In its LAR, TDCJ requested one billion more than was allocated in HB 1. It's fine to say cut elsewhere, but if we have to cut TDCJ, as it appears is the case, the debate I want to have is over "How?"

    On the second question, I'd have to look up Texas' data. But nationally, prison spending grew faster in state budgets than everything but Medicaid, according to a 2009 study.

    Texas said...

    Does anyone else believe that lawmakers in Austin are completely out of touch with reality?

    Jim Stott said...

    Well said, Scott...

    TCAmember1 said...

    With all these cuts, question has to be: will the talking heads in Austin learn from the past and actually keep a balanced budget for the future? I'm making myself laugh as i type..

    Don said...

    We just need to all remember that HB 1 is meant to be shock and awe; worst case scenario. Even the Senate version already is not as bad as that. IMO, the lawmakers are not Einstein, but they are smarter than this. They are conditioning the public for the worst, and when it turns out to be not quiet that bad, they get to tell you how wonderful they are. The final budget won't be this budget. Filling the shortfall with only cuts, no new revenue, and not touching the "rainy day" fund is not even halfway feasible, but most people are not as informed as the people who frequent this blog. They will raise some taxes, (though will use the euphemism "fees"), probably use some of the "rainy day" fund, and the next revenue estimate in May should look a little better. It will still be rough, but not this ridiculous.

    Gritsforbreakfast said...

    Don, that's true, but the Senate budget gave back "just" $200 million more - that still leaves a pretty big hole - $831 million short of their requested budget, by my count, and a $467.8 million reduction from their budget last biennium, which as we know left them $61 million short on their healthcare contract with UTMB. Those are still REALLY big reductions if they all come from the probation/parole side.

    David RD said...

    Great article!! Kudos for Grits! Now, if you could just get this printed on the front page of every Texas newspaper, Texas Monthly, and then special reports on all the local nightly news programs...oh well!! Not gonna happen!! So conservatives are running our State now as they have been for the past 10 or more years? So what's with their continuous preaching of "UNFUNDED MANDATES"? Every new punishment enhancement MUST BE FUNDED - both the legal issues for the courts and the incarceration, treatment, and probation issues!! WHY NOT do what you preach?? Guarantee they won't! Why not require the TDCJ and the BPP to justify every budget item in their proposed budgets? Justify keeping the largest number of prisons open in the country when prison population is decreasing BECAUSE of diversion, rehab, and other "keep-em out of prison" programs? BPP justify keeping your diversion and "keep-em out of prison" programs - there won't be a problem there - THEY WORK!!! If they went through our State budget like that then TDCJ would most assuredly have to close more prisons because HOW CAN they justify costing the taxpaer $35-$70 daily for "socialist" incarceration when diversion and rehab cost a small fraction of that? THEY CAN'T! Keep the prisons for people that really should be in them...we need to develop a completely new punishment system for the ones that don't need to be locked away.

    On people finding jobs after prison. The State should require employers to not discriminate against X non-violent offenders when applying for work. Require the offender to purchase (through payroll deduction if necessary) surety bonds that would guarantee the business reimbursement should they loose merchandise or other property because of the X offender. Maybe that would create an better environment for X offenders so they can get their lives back on track. Stop literally destroying a persons ability to make a decent living because of a misdemeanor or felony that may have happened many years ago. That mentality only sets these people up to offend again - they only place left for them to possible earn a living.

    Nequam Compleo said...

    David RD:
    This is from :http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/rid/rid-rio/rid-_about_project_rio.html

    Fidelity Bond: A Fidelity Bond is a business insurance policy that protects the employer due to loss of money or property resulting from employee dishonesty. The Fidelity Bonds are provided by the Travelers Property Casualty Insurance Company. The Texas Workforce Commission's Project RIO Fidelity Bonding program may bond an eligible ex-offender for $5,000. Larger bonds may be issued with the approval of the State Bonding Coordinator.

    We have the ability to be bonded pretty much the same day as the application is filled out. There's also tax credits. Most business, from my experience, have no desire to deal with them.
    Grits, do you have any way to get any info on how many companies have utilized the tax credits or the bonding program?

    Gritsforbreakfast said...

    One could probably find out through an open records request, NC.

    Anonymous said...

    Great post Scott. If the Legislators of the state of Texas were truly concerned about the citizens of Texas these 6 points would be a no brainer. The budget cuts support the war on the Texas citizenry that masquerades itself to the gullible as the war on drugs. Having the corrections bureaucracy wield control over the Legislators is like asking the thieves to guard the bank.

    The way the parole board operates is criminal. Find people jobs and getting them educated is key to staying out of prison. Another reason the budget cuts support the war on Texas citizenry. They don’t want your taxes they want you in one of their human warehouses.
    Sheldon

    Angee said...

    State government could set an example by hiring ex-cons.
    I wonder if Brad Livingston worries about job security?
    Can someone tell me how much parole/probation fees are and how they are calculated.
    Scott, this is a great piece of writing. Why not submit it to the Austin Statesman? I submitted one a few days ago making some of these same points. Gut the prison system to something that makes sense and then we could talk about education and health care, the elderly and the mentally ill. They have not rushed to contact me.
    Don, I know you are right and now they have everyone's attention. It is a game of chicken to see who veers first. Of course a good bargainer always starts by asking more than they expect so this should not surprise us. Tuff on Crime has turned to Dumb On Texas. Dumbing down Texas will be the result of cutting education. A penny increase in sales tax would be so much more honest than $20 added to our vehicle license renewal. Owning cars is already a huge expense and gas just keeps going up.
    The only jobs that I know of where background often makes no difference is the laundries and such in industrial areas. Also the shale drilling provides a lot of jobs as low as hauling sand and as high as those that visit the sites (in a company car) and enter the data in the computers.TX Cure also has listings of employers that hire people in these situations. I guess it is still on their website.

    Anonymous said...

    Okay, I've only skimmed this post, Grits, but really? I love #3 ... "Incarcerating more people costs more money" ... are you kidding me? SO, the simple solution is, incarcerate fewer criminals? Oh, I know. Incarcerate only the really bad ones. Let the thieves and druggies off with a slap on the wrist. What a bunch of liberal hogwash.

    Anonymous said...

    Scott,

    Thank you for your blog. You make sense.

    Regarding probation fees, those belong to probation departments, they are locally generated. If it wasn't for the probation fee, most CSCDs would be non-operational. Most CSCDs count on the fees paid by the probationer to make up anywhere from 40-75 percent of their budget. However, CJAD continues to ask for money to be returned (and where do you think that money comes from, the probation fee,that's where, it can't be coming from what is allotted in Basic Supervision because Basic Supervision allotments are not enough to rund a CSCD). CCP allotments are like yo-yo funding. I doubt seriously it is funded the way the Statute reads. Otherwise, the funds provided would grow through the years as the population grows instead of become static and/or reduce.

    As far as the comment about no one is listening to Carey Welebob and Stuart Jenkins, I'm not so sure I would count on them to save the CSCD. They are good people and all but they are part of TDCJ.

    The CSCD answers to local government (locally elected officials manage CSCDs, at least that is the theory).

    The people who need to speak up for the CSCDs are the CCAL Judges and District Court Judges and whoever might be involved as a Community Justice Council Member of a CSCD as those are the people who have real relationships with State Legislators.

    Every CSCD employee in the State of Texas could write their State Rep, and that would be a smart thing to do, but it is still perceived as a self-serving request. If other politicians like Judges and District Attorneys spoke up for the CSCD, a legislator's ear might pin back just a little for a listen.

    Gritsforbreakfast said...

    9:29, clearly you did just skim since your comments are pretty much non-responsive. For starters, the reform suggested in #3 that you criticize was simply to accurately budget for penalty increases in the law, which strikes me as a fiscally conservative stance. Do you somehow think they should NOT budget to pay for the laws passed?

    Re: giving people a "slap on the wrist," you obviously didn't read #4, either. And as for "liberal hogwash," I'm not saying anything much different than these folks, but then, I'm not much for labels. Small minds attempt to salve their own inadequacies by pigeonholing those who disagree with them into comforting labels, but once you get deep into the weeds on these issues, for the most part they're non-ideological.

    Anonymous said...

    Apparently Scott you missed President Obamas youtube townhall meeting yesterday.

    We are supposed to be switching from incarceration to health issues for drug offenders.

    After 40 years of locking up people over drugs with no room for discussion at the federal level,the first sitting President since Nixon has stated that drug legalization is a "legitimate subject for debate".

    Of course,he is against it. But if he had been caught when in college
    and younger,he wouldn't be President. And he is now paying back all the industries that lobbied his funding for the election by continuing the prohibition,and continuing the prohibition.

    Everyone,or almost everyone,thinks marijuana is prohibited because it is a dangerous drug but it was banned in 1937 after a campaign of propaganda and lies,paid for by big industry,to get hemp off the open market,,,,not marijuana,and
    is still being supported by the
    same big industries today with the same propaganda and lies.

    Until we remove the ability of big business to buy legislation we will continue to chase the rabbit around the track.

    DEWEY said...

    To Nequam Compleo: There jobs out here for ex-cons, but they are hard to find.I did 11 years on parole (got off in 2000, worked a few different jobs. It was tough, but I made it.
    "Common sense" really isn't all that common (esp. when it comes to the ledge)
    Hang in there. You can make it if you are determined.

    Gritsforbreakfast said...

    I didn't miss it, 9:22, I just found it irrelevant to the debate over what will happen with Redder than Red Texas' corrections budgets in 2011. Obama being against something doesn't mean much here.

    Don said...

    Anon. 9:22 I mostly agree with you. But have you considered how difficult the Drug War Industrial Complex would be to take down, even if Obama had a burning passion to end it? A lot of people do. But it is an industry that is far bigger than the drug industry it purports to be about. We talk about the Military/Industrial Complex, The Prison/Industrial complex, etc. The Drug War/Industrial Complex is just as entrenched. Nobody has the political will (or cojones) to tackle it. That said, economic times such as these could be a way to put some chinks in their armor. The same people who support the "war on drugs" are the ones who are screeching about cutting spending. And as has been pointed out repeatedly on this blog, this lock 'em up mentality has some very lofty financial consequences. In Texas legislature, we have a new freshman class that is larger than it has been in a long time. Many of these are of the "tea party" stripe. While they are, for the most part, also very socially conservative, it is my hope that money will be the overriding factor, this session. If they have some common sense, they will see that social engineering needs to wait for another day, even if people like Warren Chisum insist that it be done at all.

    Anonymous said...

    We live in a society that preaches love and forgivness on Sunday but come Monday no one practices it. So much for when you pay your debt to society and that clean slate BS. The real problem is the pint size dictators we have in the prison's and on the parole board. They must have been picked on in school or something. They humilate and degrade people who do not even have the basic human rights this country lectures other countries about. We tell Egypt to turn back on the cell phones and the internets; however, we deny this for rehabilitation. Project RIO is a joke!! No one can job search without the internet so how can someone transition out of prison. We are a joke of a nation now when we abuse human rights right here and try to hide it. The reasons the prison phone profits are not rolling in is because the prison officials break the law there too. Get ready the fees in this state are going to go through the roof. You probably be charged a fee to visit your love one in prison because if you ever did it you know they do not want visitation at all. Hey China does look better now than Texas.

    Anonymous said...

    I do not believe what has been said here about the cost of housing prisoners. They the TDCJ executives may claim it cost so much a day to feed and house them but I believe that money is being stolen. In the Gatesville units they have cut back all protein in the meals. One egg now instead of two. The meat they serve is the end and pieces that even Walmart will not sell. Once again if it was your love one how would you feel to see the suffering and human right abuses. Most of these women are non-violent offenders of severe abuse and trauma themselves. Only 2 apples and 2 oranges a year. Third world prisons do better than this.

    Anonymous said...

    Why are our lawmakers so scared of TDCJ? How come they do not stand up to them and make them follow the laws they pass? They must be getting bribes and kickbacks also

    Hook Em Horns said...

    It's been said many times, by many different people: Texas has never closed a prison since the first one opened its doors in 1846, and it never will. There's always a first, though, and it looks like the Central Unit in Sugar Land will be the breakthrough case to disprove that rule, after which I'd expect to see more units follow it to the chopping block.

    THIS IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS. THERE ARE OTHER CO$IDERATION$ FOR CLO$ING THI$ PRI$ON. TEXAS LAWMAKER$ DON'T FOOL ME, IT$ A $HAME YOU CANNOT SEE THI$ FOR THE $HAM IT IS!

    Don said...

    You are right, hook 'em. Prime real estate. (Central unit). You and I both said when Grits asked how many prisons they might close. One, for symbolism only. So they close Central, for which there was a lot of sentiment for closing anyway, so the land could be developed. It does make a lot of sense, but this does not need to be the only one!

    Gritsforbreakfast said...

    Developers and the City of Dallas wanted Dawson State Jail closed, too, but last year TDCJ re-upped the (private) contract, which was otherwise due to expire last week.

    Anonymous said...

    I wonder how many unmarked graves are going to be found on Sugarland when it is developed. That may be a little embarassing to say the least. I would imagine more unmarked graves would be discovered in Gatesville than already is known to exist now.

    Anonymous said...

    In this blog article and comments (which have been interesting and instructive) I've not read much on parole. I fail to understand why we warehouse offenders for 20+ years when they have done exactly what they were supposed to do...be rehabilitated, accept consequences, make amends. have a clean disciplinary record for the entire time in prison (which considering the nature of prison) is not easy to accomplish. I think I would respect TDCJ and the Parole Board if they would give up on "hope". Just say, you will be punished forever, get over it.Then we could cut all the rehab and religious programs in the prisons. Just stack them up till they die.

    Anonymous said...

    Now I agree with that. The parole board should be honest (now that is a good one I just my drink up) and tell the offender you are going to do the entire sentence. But the problem there is three prong. 1) you lose your slave labor. 2) You the parole board and prison employees can no longer justify most of their positions. 3) We (our lawmakers) have to admitt we are a society of no rehabiltation or forgiveness. You see parole is corrupted those appointed have bought their positions same as bribes and kickbacks from the top on down.