Texas prison inmate population “craters”

Texas State Prison at Huntsville (from Wikipedia)

Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman has a great story up unpacking the complicated politics in Texas that followed the “cratering” of that state’s inmate population.

The state corrections system now has more than 11,000 empty bunks. One state prison has closed, and two more are on the chopping block. County jails have more than 21,000 empty beds of their own.

And those once-flourishing private lockups? Several stand empty, as do at least four of the six former state juvenile prisons that were shuttered two years ago.

This is great news on a lot of levels, but for small towns that bet everything on the future of the incarceration industry, it raises troubling questions about the future.

“Ten years ago, no one anticipated this would happen,” said Brandon Wood, executive director of the commission, which monitors and inspects city and county jails. “Some counties built for their needs 20 years into the future, based on projections that have now changed.”

This is happening in small towns in big states across the US, from California to New York to Texas.  What do you think?  Should there be more planning and thinking about how to help rural communities transition away from prison jobs?

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