Talmadge Heflin – Director, Center for Fiscal Policy

“The Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s request for a 19% budget increase deserves to be heavily scrutinized by the Texas Legislature. Taxpayers being asked to foot such a large increase for more of the same should be a clear message to legislators that fundamental reform is needed.

“Texas businesses and families are suffering from higher food and fuel costs the same as TDCJ. Government is the only sector where tightening its own belt and finding efficiencies seems to be off the table.”

Marc Levin – Director, Center for Effective Justice

“Even with the cost-saving reform measures passed last year – some of which have yet to be implemented – there is still low-hanging fruit for legislators to pick that could save money. Some ideas:

– Privatizing more minimum-security prisons and state jails (the Legislative Budget Board reports that private lockups are 14% cheaper than government-run counterparts); – Expanding the Prison Industry Enhancement program so that inmates work off part of the costs of their incarceration; – Growing more of its own food on prison premises using inmate labor; and – Eliminating free condiments such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and jelly packets – as Dallas County proposed last month – and allowing inmates to purchase such through the commissary.

“This request for $1.1 billion in additional funding highlights just how important it was that new prison construction was not approved last session, and that we continue to emphasize prison alternatives like mandatory drug treatment, day reporting centers, work release, work camps, and electronic monitoring for nonviolent offenders who pose no threat to public safety.

“These alternatives not only save taxpayers’ money, but can also reduce recidivism, leading to a greater reduction in crime than prison for every dollar spent. Work programs also hold offenders accountable for the correctional costs they have caused to taxpayers to incur and result in more restitution being collected for victims, which is vital to ensuring that justice is truly served.”

About the Texas Public Policy Foundation: TPPF is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.

About Talmadge Heflin: Mr. Heflin is the Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He served 11 terms in the Texas House of Representatives, and is a former Chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee.

About Marc Levin: Mr. Levin is Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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