I've blogged before about Texas' prison population and why it's a problem of our own making and not one of inevitable demographics (see here and here for examples). On Tuesday, the relevant House committee heard some testimony from an expert who explained in detail why we can fix things without building more prisons.
More drug and alcohol treatment and fewer new prison cells could save Texas $442 million over the next five years, a new study shows.
The study, presented Tuesday at a joint meeting of the House Corrections Committee and Senate Criminal Justice Committee, shows the state could avoid spending $377 million for construction of prisons for 5,000 more inmates.
The analysis also estimates the state could save another $65 million by reducing recidivism, diverting probationers into treatment and paroling nonviolent substance abusers sooner to halfway houses.
"This is not a Republican or Democratic issue," said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, R-Plano. "I look at it as being one that's smart for Texas."
The report, prepared by national criminal justice consultant Tony Fabelo, notes that Texas prisons are full and will run out of capacity unless the state changes its policies.
Part of the rethinking focuses on what to do with those who violate the terms of felony probation by relapsing on drugs or alcohol, said Fabelo, who was director of the state's defunct Criminal Justice Policy Council. "We need to enhance the probation-treatment component of the probation system so that we are able to stop the recycling of offenders coming in and out of our prisons," he said.
Fabelo estimated a change in policies could result in a prison population of 155,600 -- 12,500 fewer than if the state sticks to current policies.