Outlook Improves for TX Sentencing Reform With Business Group Backing

With an influential Texas business lobby group and a leading conservative organization leading the charge, some legislative leaders are wondering whether this year's 140 days of lawmaking could rival 2007, when legislators approved a historic $240 million initiative to provide addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs for convicts rather than building new prisons, a gamble that has paid off and become a national model, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

There are active discussions about expanding a variety of community-based corrections programs, changing state laws to rehabilitate low-level drug offenders outside of expensive state prisons, and o ease laws that limit ex-convicts' employment. “The Legislature this year has an opportunity to take the next step,” said Marc Levin of the Center for Effective Justice at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. Levin helped bring in the support of the Texas Association of Business for a smarter-on-crime agenda. Bill Hammond, a former legislator who heads the business group, says, “The current system costs too much. We're looking at this from a business standpoint, that some changes are good public policy.”

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