Texas legislators have taken a laudatory step towards decreasing the state’s reliance on private prisons this legislative session. Lawmakers have chosen to close four prison units and two of each are privately ran facilities. These closures mark an important shift in policy for the Republican led House and Senate, that have consistently adhered to the ‘lock ’em all up’ strategy employed for decades in Texas.
Operating the largest state prison system in the nation, Texas currently has 109 prisons and jails that house approximately 147,000 convicts, with a budget of more than $3 billion a year. In the past five years, Texas’ convict population has dropped by about 9,000 prisoners as sentencing reforms and ramped-up treatment programs have cut recidivism and helped keep crime rates low. Following these trends, reducing the amount of contracts with private corporations like CoreCivic formerly CCA, MTC and the GEO group, makes as much moral sense as it does economic sense. Coupled with dropping oil prices, the reduction of the state’s crime rate provides an undeniable impetus to finish what Texas lawmakers have started: closing ineffective overpriced human cages.
Depending on for-profit prisons to undergird the local economies across Texas has proven to be successful ventures for a few wealthy, privileged participants
Many of these facilities are located in rural areas and in small municipalities. Creating a eco-system of economic dependency that is rooted in providing low paying, dangerous employment opportunities with mandated overtime and scant medical benefits. Oftentimes these corporations are capable of recruiting local officials, city chambers and media outlets in their efforts. Investing heavily in civic activities for-profit corrections corporation deeply embed themselves into the fabric of these spartan and disparate communities.These corporations offer the only source of gainful employment for many in these areas, that were once devoid of any state sponsored economic stimulus. Texas has operated a system wherein we theoretically reduced unemployment by increasing incarceration, this is an unacceptable and destructive demonstration of poor leadership by the Texas Legislature.
Depending on for-profit prisons to undergird the local economies across Texas has proven to be successful ventures for a few wealthy, privileged participants, but deadly for those who find themselves imprisoned in these state funded cages. State sponsored warehousing of humans is a system that has been perfected in Texas at the expense of unsuspecting taxpayers. The economic infrastructure provided to rural companies by corrections corporations, while leveraging humans in custody, continues to be the bane and indelible legacy of Texas’ ‘tough on crime’ political strategies.
The trend of mass incarceration is unsustainable morally and we must hold ourselves accountable for allowing our economic growth be connected to such a heinous and insidious practice as human warehousing.