Friday, February 19, 2010

Might private prisons face budget cut axe?

Nicole at Texas Prison Bidness makes a good point: Politically, the easiest prison beds for the state to cut as a result of the coming predicted budget crunch might be those operated by private contractors.

She observed that the Department of Criminal Justice already suggested the possibility of eliminating 817 private prison beds, saving $10.7 million this biennium. Given that the state already has 2,300 beds worth of excess capacity, that should be done as soon as practicable.

She also noted with approval that "Senator John Whitmire, who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, has specifically mentioned [the possibility of closing] the Mineral Wells lockup which is managed by the Corrections Corporation of America." (See Grits' discussion of those comments.)

Tack onto those suggestions the fact that TDCJ has replacement contracts with several private facilities it's scheduled to renew in the next 12 months - something they revealed in their budget-cut proposal earlier this week - and the state could soon see more opportunities for reducing excess beds. To the extent the state has excess capacity, it makes a lot of sense to eliminate those contracts going forward and absorb the prisoners back into state-owned units.

Of course, I still think there are several state-owned facilities that merit closure, but with the exception of the Central Unit in Sugarland (where the Chamber of Commerce crowd wants the unit closed to make way for airport-related development), those decisions would probably generate greater political backlash than simply reducing private capacity.


scott in Dallas said...

"that should be done as soon as practicable."

Come on, is your brain off for Lent? Sense when does should be's and rational crafting of efficient policy bear any influence in the debate? Those forces have no advocate, can't lobby, hence they never get brought up.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

They're gonna have to cut somewhere, Scott. They may as well start here.

RAS said...

Cutting the contractors is easy, if they want their services in the future it will probably cost more than it does now or involve contracts for a decade or more.

Rantor said...

You've probably seen this article in the latest issue of New York Review of Books, with attention paid to TYC, among other institutions, but just wanted to make sure ("The Rape of American Prisoners," by David Kaiser, Lovisa Stannow); couldn't find your e-mail address; hope you blog & comment on this article:

V2Saturn said...

The majority of 2300 vacant beds are treatment and trusty beds and closing down Sweetwater, Mineral Wells, Dawson will not help as they cannot be assigned into these beds just because they are vacant.

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