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Lawmakers Seek to expand Private Prison Capacity

The ACLU recently opposed legislation (HB 198 by Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden) that expands private contract capacity in Texas prisons. Today, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice can only contract 4,580 beds in state prisons. A current piece of legislation raises that cap by 1,000 beds to 5,580. Recently, the ACLU published Texas: Tougher than Ever, But are we Safer? a report that emphasizes the answer to prison capacity pressure is sentencing reform not 1,000 new private beds.

Legislators questioned why the ACLU and others opposed a mere 1,000 bed capacity increase. We stated that even incremental increases in the privatization of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are not the best policy option, and allow private interests to inject themselves in the sentencing policy debate that will undermine sentencing reform efforts like prison diversion for low level drug offenders.

Instead of focusing on expansion, state lawmakers can implement policy changes that would free up bed space quickly enough to avoid expansion measures.

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