Facing an angry and unexpected backlash from legislative leaders, Texas prison officials yesterday abruptly reversed a plan temporarily to close showcase drug-treatment programs for convicts at a privately run prison, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Prisons chief Brad Livingston said two specialty substance-abuse therapy programs with 350 beds will remain open at least until June, when officials will re-evaluate the 30 percent vacancy rate. The lockup has a total of 520 beds; the remainder are transitional beds for inmates who are awaiting transfer or release because they’ve completed the program.
State Rep. Jerry Madden , a Republican who has been a key proponent of the treatment programs as a way to cut recidivism, said prison and parole officials have been directed to investigate paperwork delays that may have played a role in the empty beds. Officials had said that they planned to idle the programs because too many bunks were empty, even though more than 80 percent of state prison convicts struggle with substance-abuse problems and the affected programs until recently had long waiting lists. Legislative leaders had blasted the shutdown as ill-timed and ill-advised.