Most drunken drivers mark time in the Texas prison system without specialized treatment, only to return to the streets and potentially to drinking, says the Dallas Morning News. With Texas facing a $18 billion budget hole next year, what prison treatment programs the state does offer may be sharply reduced or eliminated. “How in the world can the state of Texas lock somebody up for being a DWI offender and not spend any time trying to get them an opportunity or the ability to deal with their drinking?” asked Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairman John Whitmire.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice – ordered by the governor to identify a 5 percent cut in its budget – listed $7.8 million in its treatment programs, possibly eliminating help for 1,346 offenders annually. A reduction would be a reversal. Lawmakers boosted spending on state prison treatment to $97 million this year from $36 million in 2007. Department spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said the extra funding allowed expansion of the programs. “We’ve seen it have a positive impact not just on the individuals, but overall on the inmate population.”