Wednesday, December 29, 2004

TX Prison Officials: No More Cuts to Drug Treatment

This Scripps-Howard wire article quotes Texas criminal justice officials pleading with the Texas Legislature to restore drug treatment funding for parolees, and decrying cuts to treatment programs in 2003 that officials say led to greater recidivism.
"Texas prison officials have made a special request for $10 million during the next two years to treat 16,500 parolees.

"Without the money, officials said they expect people released from prison to commit more drug-related crimes and end up back in the state's custody.

"'With fewer resources aimed at diverting offenders from incarceration, the already growing offender populations could grow larger,'" according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice budget request.

At the bottom of the article we find an issue raised I'd not heard of before: Texas' 2003 drug treatment cuts were apparently so draconian that the feds refused to let Texas keep matching funds we otherwise should have gotten. The closing paragraphs of the article inform us:

"[B]ecause the federal government said the state did not invest enough of its own money, the state might not be able to keep almost $10 million that could be used to help pay for substance abuse programs.

"The state is appealing to the federal government, said Joe Vesowate, the state assistant commissioner for mental health and substance abuse services.

"He also said officials at the Department of State Health Services would ask lawmakers to restore enough funding to substance abuse treatment programs to make sure that there are no problems getting the federal dollars in the future."

That's unbelievably irresponsible. I knew Texas had made deep cuts last session, but eliminating treatment dollars that are used to draw down federal matching funds amounts to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Texans don't pay federal taxes so their money will go to Oklahoma (like our football talent). I'll be searching for more specifics about this matter as the session moves along.

In the meantime, as Grits reported earlier, at least the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee appears to want to expand treatment, not cut it more.