Faced with making deep cuts to schools and human services programs, closing at least two prisons and slashing rehabilitation programs, legislative leaders are beginning to talk about what is usually unthinkable in tough-on-crime Texas: releasing more convicts to save money, reports the Austin American-Statesman. They are targeting nonviolent foreign citizens who are eligible for parole and old, infirm convicts, some of whom have been diagnosed as dying.
“We don’t have the resources to continue business as usual in Texas,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire. Police, prosecutors, and crime victims groups are urging caution in paroling any more convicts so that Texas does not face a tragic déjà vu of the late 1980s, when wholesale paroling of hundreds of convicts to ease prison crowding triggered a crime wave several cities. “If they want to get rid of the dopers, OK. The drunks, hot check artists, the thieves, OK,” said William “Rusty” Hubbarth of Justice for All, a crime victims group. “What this state is finally realizing is that we’ve got too many people locked up who may not need to be in prisons,” said Sheryl Lynn Washington, a crime victim advocate and self-proclaimed tea party activist who was at the state capitol yesterday urging more treatment and rehabilitation programs and less imprisonment.