in Houston, Texas
Prison beds increase, just months after Texas state Legislature cheers prisons spending cuts
Monday, Dec 05, 2011, 12:43PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
razor wire

Shrinking the size of government is like popping a water balloon with one hand.

Take the closing of a state prison over the summer, part of a $60 million prison spending reduction for which the Legislature could not stop congratulating themselves. Think of all those millions of dollars in tax savings not having to fill those more than 1,000 beds, they said, some of them, no doubt, already spending the money someplace else in their minds.

They never got the chance. While the Central Unit in Sugar Land, near Houston, closed, officials at the remaining 111 prisons were adding more bunks, 2,000 more than the state had a year ago, according to a story by the Austin American-Statesman.

The reason for the new bunk building boom, the story says, is a state law requiring a certain amount of excess capacity to buffer overcrowding. Which might beg the question why the Legislature was so anxious to dump a whole prison’s worth of excess capacity already being supported by taxpayers.

With a gift for stating the obvious, Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin and the national Right on Crime told the paper, "There's nothing the state can do to limit its costs (for prisons) if we keep sending more and more people to prison, if we keep expanding the capacity," Levin said.

Of if we discard capacity and rebuild it somewhere else.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of razor wire fence by flickr user Howdy, I'm H. Michael Karshis, used via a Creative Commons license.
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