Consolidate and Close Prisons!

  • by: Just Liberty
  • recipient: Executive Director Bryan Collier, head of Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Crime in Texas dropped precipitously over more than two decades. We now have more prisons than we need, and many of them are hard to staff or require millions in repairs. THIS MONTH Texas agencies are building their new budget requests. Tell Executive Director Bryan Collier to budget for fewer, safer prisons.

Taxpayers can have a prison system that costs less and is also better, by consolidating the shrinking inmate population and shuttering two prisons. The remaining system will be better staffed and safer for everyone. But government won't shrink itself. You have to demand a smaller system or TDCJ will try and solve its problems by asking for even MORE money.

An understaffed prison is an unsafe prison -- unsafe for the guards, unsafe for the inmates, unsafe for the surrounding community. Last year, staff turnover in the Texas prison system hit 28%. Some units lost half their staff in a single year. 

Some prisons are located close enough to population centers to hire staff, but they are also among the oldest facilities in the state and need millions of tax dollars invested to make them safe for both guards and inmates. Last session, Collier asked lawmakers for more than $50 million in repair costs alone.

Tell Collier to present lawmakers with a budget that shrinks the size of our prison system, closing at least two prisons and consolidating populations among facilities that can be staffed more effectively.

Executive Director Collier,

I ask that you propose closing prisons in your upcoming budget. This will save taxpayers millions and will help address intractable staffing shortages that continue to make Texas prisons less safe for guards, inmates and surrounding communities.

I recently read that turnover in the prison system reached 28% last year. Clearly, well trained and experienced staff are necessary to keep a facility safe. You should examine your worst staffed prisons and propose closing them.

If there are facilities in need of significant repairs, these should also be considered for closure.

Texas' inmate population will continue to decline as crime continues its downward trend and counties implement new laws. Last session, the legislature passed a bill to treat "forged" checks and "hot" checks in the same system, with an emphasis on restitution to the victim. That minor change alone will reduce the number of inmates in the next biennium.

Now, while you are building your new strategic plan and your new budget, I ask that you put Texas on a path to a smaller, safer prison system that is "right-sized" to a more peaceful time. Most agencies don't want to be smaller, but I believe that you are the exception. You know that heading one of the world's largest prison systems is not something to brag about. We can rejoice at the notion that taxpayer dollars can now be spent in more productive ways, or even given back to taxpayers!

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