A few hundred Texas ex-cons were made eligible for housing vouchers after they were approved for parole but were stuck behind bars because they had no place to live, either because their families didn’t want them or they had no place to go. The Austin American-Statesman notes that the program was supposed to save taxpayers money, because the housing would cost less than a $47-a-day prison bed. Instead, state records show, the 8-month-old Temporary Housing Assistance Program appears to have accomplished just the opposite. Some parolees have been moved into state-rented homes from less expensive halfway houses.
The author of the law that created the program says parolees have been moved into single-family neighborhoods, several ex-convicts have been placed together in a single house, and Texas’ larger cities are getting the bulk of the renters even though those cities have halfway houses that could be used instead – all things he says he never intended. Earlier this month, 98 parolees were living in taxpayer-paid housing across the state – most of them in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. Their crimes included homicide, aggravated robbery, failure to register as a sex offender, driving while intoxicated, drug possession and escape. “This program was not being operated as I intended, not even close,” said an angry state Rep. Jerry Madden. “I’ve told them to get it fixed, and get it fixed now. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, who blocked a Houston location over neighborhood concerns two weeks ago, said he intends to get answers about the program at a September public hearing.