Friday, October 19, 2007

"If you can't staff the prisons you've got, how can we afford to build more?"

If there is not enough money in the budget for current and new employees, then how is there enough money in the budget for the construction of three new prisons? Up for vote soon is Proposition #4, which would, amongst various other things, finance the maintenance of current state prisons as well as the construction of three new ones. Proposition #4 would call for the issuance of $1 billion in bonds. The biggest fraction would go to funding the new state prisons, $233 million, and an additional $40 million would be for the renovation of current institutions. According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas is projected to exceed its current prison capacity by 10,000 beds in 2009. But Texas already has the highest prison population in not only the United States, but in the world. Although expanding our prison system may seem an exigent concern, an alternate course of action that does not include the construction of new prisons is ideal. The TCJC recommends reforming the parole and probation system as an alternative. Depending on the source, the arguments for and against the proposition are conflictive. Taxpayers and the conservative group “Americans For Prosperity” argue that, with our current state budget surplus, should we be borrowing money to finance maintenance, which is an “ongoing expense?” But these groups half-heartedly sanction the construction of new prisons—just not maintenance. But Texan prison guards are wary to build upon an already unstable prison system. We will see what happens with Proposition #4.

Reference: the Grits for Breakfast web blog, Oct. 15th's post
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