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Texas Budget to Close Two Private Prisons

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Texas legislators have agreed on a budget for 2013-2015 that would instruct the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to close down two for-profit prisons.  The budget doesn't name which prisons will be shut and gives the TDCJ the final say.  However, it does eliminate $97 million from the agency's budget -- the amount that would be saved by closing the Dawson State Jail and Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, both of which are run by Corrections Corporation of America.

The decision comes after months of campaigning by civil rights groups against the sub-standard conditions in the Dawson State Jail in Dallas.  Grassroots Leadership and The Sentencing Project co-released a report in February ("Dawson State Jail: The Case for Closure") outlining the problems with the facility, including a string of tragic deaths and a bed surplus in the state jail system.  A letter, signed by 25 national and state organizations, stated that

Shutting down Dawson State Jail — an inefficient facility and frequent-violator of its contract with the state — is a practical and fiscally responsible measure for addressing the state’s revenue shortfall during this legislative session.

The TDCJ is not expected to announce its decision until mid-June, after the governor has signed the budget into law.