Thursday, February 19, 2009

TDCJ Rehab Programs Working

Report: Prison rehab programs working
Today, February 19, 2009, 3 hours ago | Mike Ward
Texas’ prison population has stopped growing for the time being, thanks in part to a controversial changes in corrections policy two years ago that ballooned funding for rehabilitation programs, new statistics indicate.

That means Texas will not have to consider building new prisons that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when the economic collapse is pinching the state budget, officials said today.

”We put 6,000 treatment beds on line in the past two years … and this is the initial result: Just what we expected,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, who co-authored legislation mandating the greatly-expanded treatment programs in 2007.

Echoing sentiments from colleagues, Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said the statistics show “a dramatic turnaround.”

Today’s Legislative Budget Board testimony to the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee marked the first public report card on the new programs, which two years ago were championed by corrections advocates as a step forward and opposed by some prosecutors and police groups as too soft on crime.

“Crime is down, the programs are working,” said Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice what operates the 112-prison system. “It’s been proven before that these types of programs have an impact on recidivism, so these new numbers are no surprise.”

Even so, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley while he thinks some of the reforms have proven beneficial, such as expanded drug-treatment slots, he cautioned against reading too much into the new statistics.

“I would be very skeptical from making a connection between the numbers and legislation that passed two years ago, especially if you look back at at the LBB numbers — their predictions weren’t particularly accurate,” he said. “I would agree that the system does seem stable right now. The parole rate in the last five years has been very stable.”

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