Texas prison officials want to build three prisons and boost drug- and alcohol-treatment programs, in the biggest proposed expansion of Texas corrections programs in more than a decade, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the $520 million plan – part of a $5.6 billion, two-year budget being sought by the prisons agency – would keep pace with steadily growing numbers of prisoners that will require more than 11,000 additional prison beds in five years.
Texas tripled the size of its prison system in the early 1990s. At one point, 30,000 prison-bound felons were housed in county jails. Since then, several thousand additional beds have been added to raise system capacity of about 152,000 beds. Drug treatment and community programs were also expanded, though funding to some of those programs has been scaled back because of budget cuts made by the Legislature. In recent weeks, as details of the new expansion plans leaked out, Senate and House leaders questioned whether building prisons is the answer. They backed more treatment and community- based programs that are much cheaper to operate.