Pubdate: Tue, 11 Apr 2000
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Address: Viewpoints Editor, P.O. Box 4260 Houston, Texas 77210-4260
Contact:  2000 Houston Chronicle
Fax: (713) 220-3575
Author: Marta Glass, prison issues director, American Civil Liberties Union,


I agree with Bill Williford's April 2 Viewpoints letter, "Cut down on

About the only thing Texas does not need is more prisons. And regarding the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice's suggestion, we do not need to start
tearing down older prison units and building new ones to replace them!

Texas prisons are a simmering pot, ready to erupt in violence, as a result
of the hopeless, nothing-to-lose feelings among prisoners that are a direct
result of political policy. Good behavior and following the rules get
prisoners nothing.

What we need is a fair, humane system that gives parole to those who are
eligible for it and earn it. When a prisoner is so elderly, infirm or ill
that he or she cannot walk across a room unaided, it makes no sense to keep
them locked up.

For too long we have put a disproportionate amount of tax dollars into
locking people up.

We should put our money, instead, into training prison staff, improving
educational and substance abuse programs, and, since prisons are the mental
hospitals of the new millennium, improving mental-health care for inmates.

Rehabilitation has been sorely lacking in criminal justice policy of recent
years. More rehabilitation will mean less recidivism, fewer prisoners, more
families kept intact, more money available for clean air, indigent medical
care and all the other things sorely needed in Texas.
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