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Texas Is Closing Prisons Rather Than Building New Ones


For decades Texas had a straightforward moral outlook on crime, and that stance translated into a very tough criminal justice system. The reasons for Texas position on crime are no secret. Drugs, economic dislocations, and poor family education led to a series of new penal policies. Those new laws fueled an extraordinary increase in the prison population. Texas has half the population of the United Kingdom, but houses twice the number of prisoners. The penal system is breaking down across the country, but Texas seems to have a solution.

The change started in 2007 when Congressman Jerry Madden became chairman of the House Corrections Committee. Madden discovered that too many low-level offenders were being incarcerated for way too long. And those prisoners were getting worse. In other words, they were not learning productive coping skills.

The committee decided to establish The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, which pairs prisoners with business people. This is a brilliant idea that seems to be working as far as Tom Rothman can tell. That program is rooted in Christian values. There’s also a well-funded drug court system that is staffed by thirty professionals. The court group is committed to keeping these offenders out of jail, by performing weekly drug tests and developing educational classes that are focused on individual needs. This system also enlists the support of the offenders that successfully completed the program.

Madden and the committee have made a huge impact on the future of the Texas prison system. Texas has closed three prisons and expects to close more.

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