Texas’ prison population has stopped growing for the time being, thanks in part to a controversial changes in corrections policy two years ago that ballooned funding for rehabilitation programs, new statistics indicate.
That means Texas will not have to consider building new prisons that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when the economic collapse is pinching the state budget, officials said today.
”We put 6,000 treatment beds on line in the past two years … and this is the initial result: Just what we expected,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, who co-authored legislation mandating the greatly-expanded treatment programs in 2007.
Echoing sentiments from colleagues, Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said the statistics show “a dramatic turnaround.”
Today’s Legislative Budget Board testimony to the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee marked the first public report card on the new programs, which two years ago were championed by corrections advocates as a step forward and opposed by some prosecutors and police groups as too soft on crime.
“Crime is down, the programs are working,” said Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice what operates the 112-prison system. “It’s been proven before that these types of programs have an impact on recidivism, so these new numbers are no surprise.”