Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Pondering potent prison cuts thanks to oil revenue decline

The Texas Tribune quoted your correspondent in a story today titled, "Prison system ponders $250 million in budget cuts." Decent article, but he failed to mention another category of prison units which may be considered for closure: Those in rural areas where staffing rates remain too low to safely operate the prison - e.g., the Connally unit, which also has significant water problems, or the unit up in Dalhart which has never been able to remain adequately staffed.

Grits had also suggested private prison units may be easiest to cut because the state can just not renew the contract and savings aren't delayed by the tasks associated with closing the unit, selling off property, etc..

Thanks to the increase in property theft thresholds to adjust for inflation last year, prison populations are already down enough to close one unit. There are identifiable policy changes that could let them close several more with little if any impact on public safety.

See prior, related Grits posts:

9 comments:

David E said...

In 2012 the Legislature cut funding for chaplains in an early proposal, but added funding back before the final vote. I wonder if cutting out chaplains is being considered this time.

Concerned said...

They could approve more parole for non-violent offenders, first time offenders, Romeo/Juliet cases, the old and the sick, etc. Clearing out the prison of those who can safely reintegrate into society would cut down on prison population, allow the closure of older units (like Clemens in Brazoria where the place is literally falling down around the prisoners heads) and makes so much sense....which is exactly why it won't happen. The TDJC doesn't make common sense decisions.

sunray's wench said...

I'm told that Coffield have been using paper plates and cups and plastic spoons in the chow halls for more than a couple of weeks due to a 'water shortage' or alternatively 'because the dishwashers are broken'.

In a prison full of 4000 men, they can't find anyone to do the washing up by hand....

Anonymous said...

The prIvate contract beds need to be cut first. Remember the A$$ on the glass sexual assault at Bartlet State Jail. The water issues are not much of an issue with fracking coming to an end. The Navasota unit only needs a new filteration system. Downsizing the bed capacity at existing units is more likely to occur than complete closure.

He's Innocent said...

What some of you are not thinking of, including Grits, on closing the private ones first.... There are just about zero prisons near the Austin area. The Travis State Jail is for those serving less than two years. So is Bartlett actually. There are no true "prisons" in which one stays for 3 years or more.

This matters because for folks who live in Austin, it is often more than a 2 hour drive to see their loved ones, often much more. Well, no, this isn't much of a drive given how damn big our state is. However, for those who apply for and are granted a medical hardship, is it darn hard to find a unit within 2 hours of Austin for the inmate to be assigned to. The medical hardship allows for the state to move your family member to within a 2 hour drive of that person's home. (It may be different at the moment, but that was the rule when we received our waiver in 2013.)

I did this. My spouse was in Amarillo. He was moved to Pack in Navasota when the medical hardship was approved. It was right at the 2 hour drive limit.

If they close Bartlett - which I honestly know little of the conditions other than what I've heard 2nd hand, they are not too bad - this removes one more of the precious few options to these medical hardship visitors and inmates.

Now, if you live in Houston metro, there are lots of options. Not so much Austin, or hell, most any place west to El Paso. That prison building burst was a jobs program that has failed with them being built in little towns with no support for the prison staff, nor for families trying to visit. And let's not even talk about the ones who cannot stay staffed due to the fracking business. (I know, that's off right now, but you know it will return)

My two cents.

sunray's wench said...

Smaller prisons in more urban areas would be a better option - easier to staff, easier to keep secure, easier to be flexible to the beds.

Anonymous said...

If they'd pass that Raise the Age bill they could close several more adult units. Most of those kids would get probation in the juvie system.

Anonymous said...

Back to Reality: Fighting to close rural prisons will be a losing fight as rural Texans controls the state government. Downsizing prisons in rural areas is a more viable option while newer and smaller prisons can be relocated in more urban areas. No one cares about Bartlette, as the jobs it supplies aren't significant to the economy of Wiiamson County. Low paying prison prisons jobs aren't going to keep this temporary metal structure from being closed. CCA isn't going to foot the bill for the renovations this facility needs. Inmate family don't enjoy the lack of security their loved ones must endure at this facility which has openly allowed sexual assaults in front of their security staff.

James Innes said...

Prison should be reserved for the people we need protection from...predators.