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TX Prison Capacity Continues to Grow. Private Contract Authority Remains Strong.

Earlier this week, Mike Ward with the Austin American Statesman reported that state prison capacity had grown in recent years despite reforms.  The reporting emphasizes that continued prison growth is a policy choice that results in Texas being one of the world's biggest jailers. 

Earlier this year, Texas closed it's first state run prison but added capacity in other facilities.  Reports left open the option open for contracts with private companies.

"Instead of closing the other two prisons, Madden said budget writers agreed to leave them open and to set aside about $15 million for prison officials to lease additional beds if needed over the next two years." (Mike Ward, "Budget writers agree to shut old prison" Statesman, May 17, 2011)

The problem with the framework of Texas prison reform is that it is focused on back-end in measures including persons under community supervision who revocate to prison.  While that initial approach has helped shift the dialogue in Texas -- it does not go far enough.  Lawmakers have not paid enough attention to what triggers a prison sentence and the length of time persons spend incarcerated. 

Texas policy makers and advocates, should rethink efforts to address the state's mass incarceration problem.  The only true way to continue to address costs and, more importantly, change the state's criminal justice system is to minimize demand for a large supply of prison beds and permanently close them down.