Thursday, March 31, 2011

Programming vs. Prison Closure

This Tuesday, March 29, the Senate was generous to the Texas Department of Public Safety by restoring some funding to those planned budget cuts for prisons and treatments. As stated on the Senate website, “A Senate subcommittee charged with evaluating funds dealing with prisons and the Department of Public Safety recommended increasing appropriations by almost $300 million Monday. These recommendations would restore allocations to current budget levels for many programs. Current funding in the Senate's version of the budget for public safety agencies is about $9 billion, which is more than a billion dollars less than the last budget.” 

Exact funding restored: $273 million for the state corrections system, including funding for rehabilitation, treatment and parole programs, plus $31 million to keep the Central Unit in Sugar Land open; and $32.7 million for DPS to hire 646 additional troopers, $22.8 million for new vehicles and unspecified funding to restore the uniform-cleaning allowance for state troopers.

This restoration of money will put more money back into probation and drug treatment programs for prisoners; however, there is a catch. By funding more programming, some prisons face closure. This trade off may directly affect the Central Unit, which is an old prison from the 1900’s. Grits for Breakfast blogger believes that this exchange of more programming over prison closure will, in the long run, reduce future crime and long-term incarceration spending.

The Senate subcommittee that helped “bring back” money are also looking into restoring the General Revenue fund for inspections of jails, as well as reinstating a 7% pay raise. This subcommittee has been working hard in squeezing funding out of the Senate and hope to make more progress for the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. 

-Caroline Cardenas 

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