AUSTIN – The Senate has taken an important step toward rationalizing our criminal justice system by passing SB 1909 by Senators Rodney Ellis, John Carona, and Robert Deuell, according to Marc Levin, Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“This legislation will save taxpayers $493 million by diverting low-level, non-violent drug users from prison into probation and community-based treatment programs,” Levin said. “This is better not only for the taxpayers but also the drug offender. Arizona implemented this approach more than a decade ago with a 77 percent success rate.”

The Senate budget funds 6,100 new residential and outpatient beds and slots. That funding combined with the passage of SB 1909 will offset the need for three proposed new prisons, which would cost $1 billion to build and operate over the next decade.

“Besides the unnecessary cost associated with building these new prisons, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has estimated that such prisons may take up to five years to build,” Levin said. “Without SB 1909, our prisons will overflow by more than 6,000 inmates.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin. Research on this issue is available on the Foundation’s website,

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