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Legislative Update

As the end of the state's 80th Legislature quickly approaches I thought it important to list introduced legislation that impacts prison privatization. Some of the bills filed this year include:

  • HB 198 by Madden -- The introduced bill expanded contracted bed capacity with private vendors and counties at the unit level by 1,000-beds to 1,500-beds, and increased overall private prison capacity by a total of 1,000-beds. Before HB 198 made it out of the House, Rep. Kolkhorst amended private unit capacity down from 1,500 to 1,150. The word is to watch the final version of this bill as former House Corrections Chairman Ray Allen is walking the halls as a lobbyist for GEO.
  • HB 1354 by Madden -- This bill changes the square footage requirement for privately contracted facilities to pre-1987 standards. HB 1354 is bad for Texas because post-1987 prison beds were constructed to meet constitutional requirements stipulated by Ruiz. All new construction should at a minimum meet the Ruiz standard, and requirements for private prisons should be held to a higher standard. Long-term prison bed standards in public and private prisons must be held to a higher standard than county jails, probation, and parole facilities where stays are shorter.
  • SB 185 by Estes -- which purports to authorize the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to house prisoners convicted in Texas in private prisons in Mexico, particularly Mexican nationals. A similar measure was vetoed in Arizona during 2005.
HB 1354 and SB 185 are likely dead as neither bill has made it out of committee. Anti-private prison advocates will need to watch HB 198 to make sure that it does not get any worse if it makes it to the Governor's desk.
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