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Prison Facts More than 57,000 people are now incarcerated in Texas prisons. Over the next three years, the state will add 37,000 additional prison beds at a cost of more than $1 billion. The Texas Department of Corrections estimates that building each new bed in a maximum security prison costs about $30,000. A bed in a medium security prison costs about $19,000. About 120 new inmates flow into Texas prisons every day. Eight of every 10 inmates in Texas prisons are high school drop outs. One of four high school dropouts lives in poverty. Eighty-five percent of Texas inmates are alcohol or drug abusers. Forty-five percent of Texas inmates are illit erate or read at less than a sixth grade level. In 1991, drug cases \(drug sale, manufac25 percent of the total criminal caseload in Texas’ district courts. In 1985, the figure was 14 percent. In 1981, one in 12 inmates was serving time for drug-related offenses. In 1991, one in five was serving drug-related sentences. Forty-seven percent of all TDC inmates are black, 29 percent are white and 23 percent are Hispanic. On Sept. 1, 1992, more than 104,000 people were behind bars in Texas: About half were in TDC facilities. The rest were in county or city jails. For every $1 spent on quality child care, $6 are saved in social welfare, special education and juvenile justice costs. Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, State Comptroller, Austin Project. Pay Now or Later: The Exploding Prison Budget BY ROBERT BRYCE Austin HOW MANY TIMES have you heard that it’s cheaper to send a kid to college than to send a kid to prison? Well, it’s true. You could send a kid to the University of Texas at Austin, for a full year \(including summeal plan, give the kid $300 a month for pizza, beer and condoms and it would still be cheaper than sending him to the big house in Huntsville. A full year of education at UT costs about $12,229. Each inmate in the state penitentiary costs the state $15,607 per year. If you want to talk about growth industries, consider prisons the fastest-growing part of the state budget. Over the past eight years, prison appropriations have increased by 127 percent. Texas is currently in the midst of the largest prison expansion in U.S. history. The Criminal Justice Policy Council estimates that even with the 37,000 prison beds now being soon need space for an additional 28,000. By 1995, about 92,000 Texas inmates are expected behind bars. By the year 2000, Texas could have 120,000 incarcerated. And the costs of keeping those prisoners locked up is rising dramatically. By 1995, the state will be spending $2 billion a year on prisons. Texas is not the only state in the midst of a prison crisis. California is spending $2.2 billion for 23,000 new prison beds. Pennsylvania is adding 10,000 new beds at a cost of $1.2 billion. Nationwide, the prison population has more than doubled over the past decade. Criminal justice also is wreaking havoc on budgets at the county level. In Austin, Travis County taxpayers are bracing for a 13 percent property tax increase. Much of that money will go to feed, clothe and house the 2,200 inmates in the county jail, where it costs the county $59.15 per day to keep each inmate. That translates into $21,589.75 per inmate per year. The county’s corrections budget is the single largest item in the county budget and Travis County expects to spend $27.2 million to incarcerate prisoners in 1993. The cost of keeping the county’s prisoners is rising by more than 8 percent per year. If current trends continue, the cost of keeping county prisoners will double in nine years. Business is good in the prison industry. But Robert Bryce is an Austin -based freelance writer. the increasing costs of incarceration are looming large on the state’s fiscal horizon. And despite soaring costs, Texas officials have yet to take any serious action to avoid some of the future costs. As state Comptroller John Sharp has said, “We’re so busy killing alligators, we haven’t been able to drain the swamp.” Sharp’s office has been examining the prison budget and in a draft of a report expected to be released in October details some of the problems in the Texas penal system. The report, “Texas Crime, Texas Justice,” finds six problems that are endemic in the prison system: 1.Texas’ criminal justice system is fragmented; 2.Those fragments cause problems that are interrelated; 3.The Ruiz v. Estelle lawsuit over prison overcrowding has sent costs soaring; \(a lawsuit filed by inmate David Ruiz in 1972 forced the state prison system to increase staffing and build more prisons. For instance over the past 12 years, staffing has increased by 300 percent in 14 Texas prison units while inmate pop 4.The “get tough on crime” attitude is counterproductive; 5.The “War on Drugs” has meant a flood of new convicts; 6.The state’s criminal justice system alone cannot solve our crime problems. Of the six problems identified in the Comptroller’s report, the last two are the most telling. The War On Drugs apparently has not reduced the drug supply, but it has reduced the supply of free, able-bodied black and Hispanic men. \(While drug-related arrests nationwide have increased by 100 percent, the number of blacks arrested for drug offenses has increased ons have been overwhelmed by the increase in drug cases. The number of Texas inmates serving time for drug-related offenses has more than doubled over the past decade. And the emphasis in the prison system has remained on punitive measures rather than on drug and alcohol abuse counseling and treatment. 8 OCTOBJER 16, 1992