Long known being tough-on-crime, Texas was hailed in yesterday’s Pew Charitable Trusts report on prison populations. Even as state legislators were lauded for innovative programs for drug and alcohol abusers, Texas pushed past California to become the nation’s leader in putting people behind bars, reports the Houston Chronicle. Texas had 171,790 prisoners on Jan. 1 – down 326 inmates from a year earlier. California, which long had led the nation in inmates, reduced its prison rolls by 4,068 during that period.
Last year, Texas legislators last year approved a dramatic expansion of drug treatment and so-called “diversion” beds, broad changes in parole practices, and increased use of drug courts. The reforms could save the state $210 million over two years. With the new measures in place, authorities anticipate no prison population growth in the next five years. The legislation will create 500 single-occupancy cells for people incarcerated for substance abuse offenses. “Right now we’ve got 5,500 inmates incarcerated for DWI – three or more offenses,” said Sen. John Whitmire. “They’re in the general population, sharing a cell with a murderer or a rapist.  Rather than putting them in a hard two-man cell, we’ve gotten smart and are putting them in a treatment program.” An interview with Whitmire and State Rep. Jerry Madden on corrections subjects can be seen at this site: http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/Whitmire%20Madden%20QA.pdf