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February 11, 2011

Prison practicalities in lean budget times

Thanks to entries at The Crime Report, I saw these two notable stories from Louisiana and Texas that provide a sign of our lean budget times here in incarceration nation:

"La. explores prison sale":

The Jindal administration is asking companies to detail how much they would charge the state to care for inmates in Allen and Winn parishes if two state prisons are sold to ease budget problems.

"Texas House budget writers urge prisons to release more feeble inmates":

Texas’ corrections chiefs should consider freeing more feeble inmates and quit holding them until they die, some House budget writers said Thursday.  Legislative budget staff members have criticized current practices, saying they sock taxpayers with huge costs for gravely disabled and geriatric inmates’ medical care in prison.

February 11, 2011 at 02:26 PM | Permalink

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FYI, Grits had coverage of that same Texas hearing here, including links to a lot of juicy, just-released data on inmate population projections, cost, recidivism, etc..

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 11, 2011 2:41:32 PM

It seems to me that, unless done carefully, these suggested freeings of old and infirm prisoners could end up costing the states more than they save. Consider someone who has been in prison for a couple decades and is "kicked to the curb" in his 60s. He has few (if any) job prospects that could earn a living wage (and his social security benefits are practically nil). He has no health insurance. He has no real stake in a society that tossed him away years ago. Why wouldn't such an individual decide that his most rational course of action was to commit a serious enough crime that we'd be forced to send him back to prison?

We dug ourselves a deep economic hole by mindlessly packing our prisons full. We won't climb out of that hole by mindlessly emptying them. Society will only save money in the long run if we invest in making prisoners' transition to freedom a successful one.

Posted by: Joe Power | Feb 11, 2011 2:48:05 PM

Joe, in Texas they have to have a release plan that includes somewhere to go.

Also, it won't cost the states more but shift costs to the feds. Once out, the feds pay 60% of Medicaid and 100% of Medicare, whereas prison healthcare comes 100% from state general revenue.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 11, 2011 3:52:33 PM

I don't see how it's at all in the prison warden's interest to release anyone without a command from the legislature to do so. So whining from a rep on such an issue seems more than a bit silly. If you want to see these prisoners released, write a bill and get it passed. Don't expect an executive to do anything against their interests without direction (the direction would help shift those interests).

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Feb 11, 2011 4:06:28 PM

Soronel, in practice it works both ways. I've seen failed bills achieve their goals because, in the course of debate which clarifies critical points that can't be reached without rigorous back-and-forth argumentation, executives come to see that this or that change or reform is in their best interests, so after session is over they do it anyway, on their own terms. Also, particularly if agencies can "tell which way the wind blows," bureaucrats often will begin to do what legislators want in such circumstances so, when a bill is proposed, they can tell them "we're already doing that." Texas has seen our parole rate creep up 10-15% recently, e.g., because the parole board fears the Lege will make them do it if they don't of their own accord.

Also, when you have biennial legislative sessions with 19 months in between them, as in Texas, a lot less legislating goes on and day-to-day governing happens more from agencies taking direction from relevant committees, legislative leadership and the Governor. The fact that there very likely will be legislation on this in the next four months is exactly why the Reps comments were relevant.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 12, 2011 11:49:05 AM

Grits: Where you live? I want to open halfway houses on your street. These harmless, infirm criminals can sit in their rocking chairs on the porch, and stare at your kids waiting for the school bus.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 12, 2011 7:58:35 PM

An equally interesting development in Texas last week was the legislature's rejection of the initial TDCJ budget-cutting proposal that slashed drug- and alcohol-treatment programs and reduced the number of parole and probation officers. TDCJ came back with a plan to cut its own administrative staff, close two prisons early, and reduce a private contract facilty. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire said "I think that's what we're going to move ahead with." See http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/politics/entries/2011/02/09/lege_leaders_revised_prison_cu.html?cxntfid=blogs_postcards.

New York, listen up!

Posted by: margy | Feb 13, 2011 11:21:20 AM

This is just a guess.

Whitmire is a lawyer. He lives in a lawyer neighborhood where crime is rarer than in Japan or Switzerland. How is that done? The death penalty is always at the scene. Three cruisers respond to a robbery in under 3 minutes. They come out blasting, and no criminal makes it from the crime scene alive. There is no excessive force litigation where the lawyer lives.

Whitmire would resist my opening a halfway house for newly released prisoners on his block.

Whitmire wants to dump excessive criminality onto minority neighborhoods. That will increase the value of his property in any lawyer neighborhood. So this change is not from principle, but from the profit motive, and is in bad faith.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 13, 2011 12:59:09 PM

SC, they beat you to it. There's a halfway house about two blocks from me.

You also don't know jack about John Whitmire - for starters, regardless of what neighborhood he lives in, he was once robbed at gunpoint in his own garage and is a crime victim advocate. Also, he chaired the Criminal Justice Committee in the Senate in the '90s when he and Ann Richards tripled the number of TX prison beds. The idea that he wants to "dump" criminals on the street to "increase the value of his property" is absurd and shows why your comments are almost always the last ones in every SL&P thread: No one wants to debate crazy and what you say are almost entirely BS, lies and libels.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 14, 2011 8:23:41 AM

The unfamiliar is almost always labeled crazy, especially by left wing rent seekers dependent on big government for their living. In my case, it is mainstream thinking accepted by the majority of the American people. When you release a prisoner, you unleash a mini-natural disaster, generating massive health and social government costs.

What happened to the real estate values when the halfway house opened? If you can't sleep, could you take a relaxed walk around your block at night? What about your kids walking back at 9 PM from visiting a friend 3 blocks away? What happened to the crime victimization rate? Not the police crime reported crime rate, but what you heard about victimization?

I have another theory about my having the last word. I am the Ambassador from Earth. I bring mainstream, reality based, non-rent seeking conclusions. Lawyers know the criminal law is in utter failure, and debating would only bring out more data to that effect. What would you think and do if your car mechanic would only work on your car every 10 breakdowns. 90% of your repair needs, he would refuse to even address or examine the car. Then when he works on the car 1 of 10 times it breaks down, 1 out 5 repairs he finally does? He does the wrong repair, repairing something that did not need repair. That mechanic would not be sued, not lose his license, he would be arrested as a threat to the public safety, allowing 9 of 10 breakdowns to go unfixed, and ripping you off doing the wrong repair 20% of the times he does repairs.

Why are we allowing this lawyer incompetent to run the criminal law, when 90% of FBI Index felonies go unanswered? Of the 10% that get prosecuted, 90% are pled to a fictitious crime. And, vicious criminals can get classified as non-violent, qualified for early release. Then when they have the person, and the person has even accepted a plea deal, there is an exorbitant chance that person is innocent in fact or by law.

Whitmire is such a victim of lawyer indoctrination, even a personal mugging does not bring home the message. The facts do not bring home the message. When he tripled the prison population, crime plummeted, the population increased, the Texas economy boomed, and saw nothing of the depression of Michigan, with an unemployment rate lower than that of the nation.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 14, 2011 8:55:14 AM

Grits: What do you think of having incarcerated meth manufacturers with a chemistry education produce lethal barbiturates as a new, high profit, prison industry? The DEA should supervise closely both the supplies and output of this enterprise.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 14, 2011 9:08:27 AM

Nutjob.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 14, 2011 12:55:47 PM

Personal remarks make the person look cheap and defeated intellectually. It's like knocking down one's king in a hopeless chess game.

That's the Left. The facts abandoned it 100 years ago. Only personal attack remains to enforce the provision of jobs by bigger government. The Left killed 100 million people, and still failed to persuade anyone. The criminal is to be protected, enabled, and encouraged. Why? To generate massive numbers of government sinecures.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 14, 2011 10:39:59 PM

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