State prison officials, their initial budget-cutting plans rejected by legislative leaders, have shuffled the deck and come up with a new proposal to cut more administrative jobs and close two prisons earlier than planned as a way to save $50 million.
The revised plan, provided to Senate and House leaders yesterday, would lay off an additional 400 administrative workers at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and move up the planned closure of the 1,000-bed Central Unit near Sugar Land to sometime before Aug. 31.
In addition, 500 beds at the 2,100-bed Mineral Wells Unit — a private contract prison for convicts who are soon to be paroled — would be closed by August.
TDCJ still plans to eliminate some treatment capacity and Project RIO, the job assistance/reentry program, as part of its 2.5% cuts, which must be implemented in the current fiscal year. And there's an extent to which Mineral Wells and the Central Unit were the easy first calls regarding prison closures. Future decisions will get tougher. Still, it's a hopeful sign to see legislators pressing the agency to close prisons to preserve treatment programming:
Added Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, a member of a Senate working group on corrections spending: “We sent them on a mission to come up with $50 million in cuts that wouldn’t adversely impact parole and probation and (treatment) programs … and they did a good job.”