November 19, 2007

The Texas prison system sucks, and it's going to get worse

From the Texas Observer:

Break the Chain

Voters just approved $233 million in bonding authority to build three more prisons without considering how much it will cost to operate them. Building prisons and increasing sentences is like crack cocaine for ambitious politicians. There are nearly 2,000 felonies in the Texas penal code. Between 1997 and 2002, the average amount of time served by prisoners increased 83 percent in part because of harsher sentencing laws.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Increasing parole rates for nonviolent, first-time offenders by only 4 percent would eliminate the need for any new prison beds in the short term, according to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. The group’s Web site ( has a number of commonsense solutions to prison overcrowding, including increased drug treatment and probation reform. For what we spend on each addict in a Texas prison, five could be given drug treatment at nearly the same cost.


The editorial also notes the poor conditions of the prisons themselves and gives more statistics. It just goes to show that militant, close-minded people who vote for corporate candidates (mostly Republican in this case) are really the ones who squander tax payer money. Anything to lock up minorities for as long as possible, that's what they care about, justice and logic be damned. Some Republican (and Democrat) voters probably don't realize the consequences of building more prisons and increasing sentence terms. They think they're cleaning up the streets but they're really cleaning out the state's pockets, and making the streets and communities worse in the long run.

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