In an Austin American Statesman article today titled “A quick solution to prison overcrowding?”, and subtitled “Statistics show prisons house thousands of inmates who are good candidates for parole”,Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire is quoted on the lack of funding for inmates to complete drug and alcohol programs pre-release:
"There are long waiting lists for those programs, so people sit in prison much longer than they should," Whitmire said. "We have 900 or so who are approved for parole but who have not been paroled because the programs they have to complete as a condition for parole are not available."
Whitmire said he is convinced that the large number of parole-ready trusties is a case of prison officials not wanting to lose valuable help. Outside trusties work as porters, help in offices and do field and community service labor. Inside minimum-security prisoners serve as cooks and janitors and do laundry and other chores.
"I'm convinced the reason we're not paroling more of these people is that they're the workers," he said. "If they're a low-enough risk that they are allowed outside without close supervision, why not parole them and put them on a monitoring bracelet, and open up that bed for someone else?"
"Based on these numbers, I think we should take a look at every bed we have, and who is in it, before we build any more," Whitmire said.
Taxpayers spending more on incarceration than they could on proper rehabilitation programs is, unfortunately, nothing new. But inmates not released because the prison industry wants to use more labor? It’s getting downright Dickensian out there…