The closures are part of a national trend, officials say, as government agencies that run prison industry programs experience budget cuts and government agencies that buy prison-made goods scale back their purchases, also to cope with tighter state budgets.The other closures:
"The question is how do you keep convicts busy if the plant closes," said Tony Fabelo, an Austin-based criminal justice statistician who tracks criminal justice trends.
"This has implications for prison management, beyond just the closing of a plant here and there."
In Texas, prison officials have always prided themselves on the state's robust prison-industry program. It is among the nation's largest, where convicts make everything ranging from furniture, highway signs and soap to garments, license plates and shoes at 41 plants. But now some officials worry that increasing numbers of idled convicts could lead to new disciplinary and security problems inside Texas' sprawling system of 111 state prisons.
In Beaumont, a metal products plant at the Stiles Unit was shuttered earlier this year and its operations were consolidated with similar plants at the Coffield Unit near Tennessee Colony and the Powledge Unit near Palestine.Meanwhile, the Huntsville Item has a story on recent budget cuts at TDCJ's Windham School District which informs us that:
A garment plant at the Jester 3 Unit in Richmond was consolidated with a plant at the Eastham Unit north of Huntsville. A shoe plant closed at the Jordan Unit near Pampa had its lines moved to a plant at the Clements Unit in Amarillo that makes blankets.
A wood and furniture plant at the Ellis Unit outside Huntsville was moved to the Lewis Unit in Woodville. And a plant that manufactures stainless-steel fixtures at the Boyd Unit in Teague has been closed and consolidated with a metal plant at the Luther Unit outside Navasota.
As of Thursday, Windham had to eliminate 271 full-time employees, including 157 teachers in addition to adminstrative and support staff. WSD also enforced salary reductions across the board in order to reduce its budget by $17.8 million, or 27 percent, per year of the biennium.
It was another tough blow to the residents of Huntsville and the surounding communities. Another 40 jobs were lost in the area after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice went through a round of layoffs a few months ago.
Windham had to cut jobs at the Eastham, Ellis, Estelle, Goree, Huntsville and Wynne units as the agency’s budgeted figures for 2012 under the regular programs were substantially lower than the estimated expenses for the fiscal year 2011, which led to a reduction in funding. ...
As a result of the teaching cuts, Windham, which provides academic, career and technology training for offenders to help combat recidivism, has also had to eliminate and reduce educational programs, including General Educational Development (GED). Each teaching position was determined to serve 107 students per year, meaning more than 16,700 offenders will be left out of the classrooms in 2012.
GED classes are no longer being offered at the Glossbrenner, Halbert, Havins, Johnston, LeBlance and Sayle substance abuse facilities and at the Duncan Unit. The Central Unit in Sugar Land was recently closed down completely.
“Despite substantial budget reductions, WSD remains committed to providing the best possible programming with allocated funding,” Kiser said.
The GED, as well as other programs, were signifigantly reduced at 19 other units, including Eastham, Goree, Ellis, Byrd and Huntsville. According to WSD’s annual performance report for 2009-10, approximately 77,500 inmates received educational services and 12,464 of the offenders released in 2010 attained a GED and took college classes while incarerated in TDCJ.
Offenders at the units that no longer offer GED courses have limited options as to continuing their education.