Scarce Texas prison beds are increasingly being used by offenders who have violated a condition of their parole or probation, often for merely missing a meeting or failing to pay a fee, the Houston Chronicle reports. Of the 77,000 offenders who entered prison in fiscal 2004, 11,311 were there on parole violations and 24,490 on probation violations. Department of Criminal Justice officials told legislative leaders this week they expect to run out of prison space by March and may need an emergency appropriation to lease beds in county jails. On Sunday, the prison system was at 97 percent of capacity with 150,575 inmates.
Lawmakers will be looking at ways to reduce parole and probation revocations. Ideas include specifying when judges can revoke probation and building intermediate sanction facilities in urban areas. Criminal justice officials said the probation system is not working because of a lack of community alternatives and because of disconnection between the courts and the prison system. Jails could become more crowded and financially strained if counties are forced to incarcerate state inmates. “There is a problem looming,” said Capt. Robert Van Pelt of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department in Houston.