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TDCJ to lay off thousands of employees and not close a single prison (private or otherwise)?

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The title basically says it all, and I'm stealing it almost verbatim from Scot over at Grits for Breakfast, who is has been covering this issue with his usual terrific coverage.  Here's his take,

At 5% below their current budget, TDCJ suggests closing no prisons but somehow believes they can safely cut 1,700 staff, including 1,200 at correctional facilities. If required to cut their budget by 10%, says the LAR, they'll eliminate 4,700 staff (mostly prison guards and parole officers) and still not close any prisons, while cutting mental health services by $88.8 million! If required to cut 15%, reports the Statesman's Mike Ward, TDCJ might close one private facility and would lay off 7,300 people. The only reduction in capacity suggested in the LAR are Intermediate Sanctions Facilities (prison alternatives that by all account have worked well) and the elimination of 471 beds at unspecified private units.

These frankly aren't serious proposals. Indeed, nearly every cut proposed by the agency - to probation, to parole, to treatment, to mental health - seems targeted not to best serve the public interest but to maximize the future inflow of prisoners to ensure that all 112 Texas prison units remain full, no matter what. This is classic bureaucratic self-interest at work from an agency that perceives itself first and foremost as a prison operator and thinks of community supervision as frills. Likely TDCJ officials are hoping against hope that Sen. Whitmire will prevail in his effort to have criminal justice agencies exempted from budget cuts.

As Nicole reported back in February, it was Whitmire who floated cutting private prison contracts as a way to save TDCJ money in a time of budget cuts:

The state's pending budget shortfall in 2011 may result in the closure of the privately run units.  Senator John Whitmire, who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, has specifically mentioned the Mineral Wells lockup which is managed by the Corrections Corporation of America.

In recent weeks, Whitmire has publicly suggested that the state consider closing the privately run, 2,100-bed Mineral Wells Unit and perhaps aging prisons that are much more expensive to operate and maintain than newer ones.

Of course, with CCA already facing 12,500 empty prison beds around the country, the company surely doesn't want to see one of its largest Texas facility shuttered.  It remains to be seen what the fight during the legislative session will look like, but we'll undoubtedly see an effort on the part of the private prison corporations to ensure that their facilities aren't closed.  We'll keep you posted.