For the first time in its history, Texas is shuttering a prison -- a creaky, 102-year-old lockup southwest of Houston once made famous in the folk song "Midnight Special."
Half the state away in Brownwood, a Texas Youth Commission lockup for teenage lawbreakers sits empty, one of three juvenile prisons closed effective Sunday as part of a state plan to focus mostly on community-based rehabilitation and treatment programs.
The empty cells were once unthinkable in a tough-on-crime state like Texas that once couldn't build prisons fast enough.
Texas joins a nationwide trend of shutting expensive state prisons, driven partly by red ink in state budgets, partly by a drop in convict numbers -- with the lowest crime rate since 1973 -- and partly by a policy shift from lock-'em-up justice to rehabilitation programs.
"From where Texas was just a few short years ago, this is huge," said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, a Richardson Republican and an architect of the changes. "There were those who said this day would never come."
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Historic adult, youth prison closures driven by budget red ink, rehab goals
The Statesman's Mike Ward has a story on the Texas Legislature's historic decision to close one adult prison in Sugar Land and three youth lockups, the first time the state's has shuttered such facilities: