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Grits for Breakfast: Lege to Reinvest Money from Prison Closure into more Private Prison Beds

Following up on the state's continuing contract with the Dawson State Jail more details regarding the decisions of lawmakers to close state prisons is coming to light.  Mike Ward at the Austin American Statesman reported earlier this week that:

Senate and House budget negotiators have agreed to close the 102-year-old Central Unit near Sugar Land to save $50 million, the first such closure of an entire maximum-security lockup in state history.

Our pal Scot Henson at Grits for Breakfast found news in the recent events to be disapointing:

Savings from prison closures should go to diversion programming, not private prisons. The goal should be to reduce incarceration levels, not to plan for failure.

The reality is that lawmakers do have different choices and even setting asside $15 million of limited state funding because of the anticipated need of private prison beds.  State lawmakers have achieved some policy reform that has resulted in lowering the state's incarceration rate, reducing recidivism while not compromising public safety.  And in some respect that spirit of reform has contributed to not only a culture change in Texas but nationally.

Yet the anticipation of lowered expectations continues to plague the Texas Legislature and results in a lack of investment in communities and people.  This is disappointing.  The questions as we move forward is will there ever be a moment when Texas lawmakers who commit to finding alternatives to incarceration also plan for the day when they might not need so many prison beds.  Rather they make the choice to prioritize state resources on in ways that strengthen opportunity for all Texans.

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