Florida Prison Reformers Hear How Texas Avoided Building


Florida 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, says the St. Petersburg Times. 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?

Texas avoided a prison crisis. Two years ago, it faced the need to house 17,000 new inmates by 2012 at a cost of half a billion dollars. 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 a “justice summit” in Tampa sponsored by the Collins Center for Public Policy. “We were able to say we can do this for less and, oh, by the way, our results will be better.” Yesterday, Sen. Victor Crist held a legislative workshop in Tampa focused on criminal justice issues. The Republican favors “early and effective” substance abuse and mental health treatment and wants to expand work-release programs.

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