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Budget Cuts Provide CURE Prison Reform Finally Arrives Austin FOR TEN YEARS, Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants prison reform in the Texas Legislature. Over these past five legislative sessions and one constitutional convention, there have been major accomplishments. However, these victories have been overshadowed by frustrating defeats. Thus, we thought this session would be typical. In the last days of the session, I sent a note to the House floor to Representative Bill Messer, the Chairman of the powerful Calendars Committee. Rep. Messer ignored my note and I could understand why . He probably thought that here was another “bleeding heart” group ready to complain about its legislation dying in the Calendars Committee. By then, over 200 bills had met their fate in Calendars. I sent another note in to Rep. Messer. Finally, he came out. “Rep. Messer,” I began, “I would like to thank you for placing our legislation for debate on the House floor. I know you have received a lot of criticism, but we are very appreciative of your leadership on our issue.” Rep. Messer looked as surprised as I would have been if someone would have told me back in January that I would be saying this in May. But this was another example of the topsy-turvy session we experienced West Texas and Republican legislators became our leaders, debate on prison reform was almost non-existent, and we found ourselves praying against a tax increase. In the end, what emerged were sixteen bills, two resolutions, and one constitutional amendment the most productive legislative session in criminal justice reform in Texas history . Broad and Strong Leadership Of these nineteen measures, Senator Ray Farabee of Wichita Falls, 4 longtime prison reform advocate, led the Senate with sponsorship of seven. Republican Bob McFarland of Arlington followed with three. Senators Chet With Pauline Sullivan, Charles Sullivan is director of Citizens United for By Charles Sullivan Brooks and Lloyd Doggett each had two bills, while the remaining five enactments were sponsored by Senators Kent Caperton, Ed Howard, Tati Santiesteban, Bill Sarpalius, and Craig Washington. In the House, conservative Democrats and Republicans were even more visible. Rep. Jim Rudd of Brownfield in West Texas had his name on five of the twenty. Republicans Ray Keller of Duncanville and Terral Smith of Austin had three each. The remaining eight were sponsored by Representatives Gonzalo Barrientos, Dick Burnet, Lloyd Criss, Charlie Evans, Pete Laney, El Franco Lee, Walter Martinez, and Wayne Peveto. Rep. Burnet and Rep. Laney are from West Texas and, like Rep. Evans, would be considered conservative. On the state level, Governor Mark White was chiefly responsible for the prison reform mood this session. After four years as Attorney General and involvement in intensive prison reform litigation, Mark White was prepared to move on this issue. This is in stark contrast to his ’78 lawand-order campaign for Attorney General. His position then was graphically illustrated in TV ads by a clanging jail door with his promise to lock up felons and keep them there. But, since then, Gov. White had seen what had happened to the individual after you locked the door and, apparently, hadn’t been impressed. From the beginning of the session to the bill signings, White’s leadership was evident. He appointed new prison board members, criticized the need for “cadillac” prisons, and visited model community-based programs in El Paso and San Antonio. In our opinion, his leadership could not have been stronger. Gov . White was essential to passage and will be essential to implementation. Besides the Governor, Speaker Gib Lewis endorsed the prison reform movement this session by “signing off” on about half of these twenty measures, called the Keller-Rudd package. Speaker Lewis did this at a news conference on the morning of April 9th, a few days before these bills would begin to be debated on the House floor. Later on that day, he followed up his public support by lobbying the Appropriations Committee to delete prison construction and place the money in community-based corrections. Also, Attorney General Jim Mattox went on record as supporting community corrections. Finally, although Lieutenant Government Bill Hobby recently has called for a special session to appropriate money for more prisons, last November he started off the process of cutting back the prison system and called the Department of Corrections “an absolutely bottomless pit.” CURE’s Pauline Sullivan lobbies Rep. Al Granoff Photo by Alan Pogue 6 JULY 8, 1983