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November 19, 2009

Can the laboratory of the states help solve prison-crowding problems?

The question in the title of this post is inspired by this local article from Florida, which is headlined "Florida's prison problem could find a solution in Texas."  Here is how the piece starts:

If only Florida's economy could grow like its prisons.  The state has more than 100,000 prisoners for the first time in its history. It's expected to add 14,000 in the next five years, according to the Department of Corrections.  Every 1,500 new inmates need a new prison.  It costs $100 million to build one and $20 million a year to run.  How can a state in a perpetual budget crisis pay for all that?

"It's currently unsustainable given our fiscal situation," said Florida Tax Watch general counsel Robert Weissert. Florida is staring at a Texas-sized problem. Fortunately, Texas might also have the solution.

Two years ago that state faced its own prison crisis: house 17,000 new inmates by 2012 at a cost of half a billion dollars.  But Texas never built any new prisons. Instead, for half that amount, it revamped its criminal justice system, reduced its prison population and became a national model for reform.

"We hit the perfect storm at the right time," Texas legislator Jerry Madden said at the Collins Center for Public Policy's Justice Summit this week in Tampa.  "We were able to say we can do this for less and, oh, by the way, our results will be better."

November 19, 2009 at 03:30 PM | Permalink


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Prisons cells may become palatial. Throw in complimentary Yoga and spa services. Leave a Godiva chocolate on the pillow every evening.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 20, 2009 6:47:52 AM

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