Texas State Representative Edward Cain recently filed an amendment to HB1 that would require the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to seek private bids for the operation of all state jails, according to the Texas Tribune. While that particular amendment has been rescinded, the proposal will be attached to a corrections-related bill by Rep. Jerry Madden, Chairman of the House Corrections Committee. According to the proposal, the TDCJ would be required to turn over the jail operations to private bidders if it would result in at least a 10 percent savings to the state.
In 1993, Texas reformed its sentencing laws to more effectively deal with low-level drug and property offenders. As a result, a system of state jail facilities was created to house and incarcerate people convicted of non-violent crimes called state jail felonies. Currently, five of those state jail facilities are already operated privately.
Unfortunately, compared to state prison inmates, the recidivism rate for state jail felons is significantly higher (32% after three years for state jail felons, 26% for prison inmates). And, according to Ana Yañez-Correa, Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, “the real cost savings is going to come out of minimizing the number of people who don’t need to be there.”
In addressing that goal, State Rep. White recently proposed HB 3366 which would allow for parole supervision for state jail felons. Currently, good behavior time is not available to those incarcerated in state jails, who must serve their entire sentence before being discharged without supervision. The bill incentivizes participation in rehabilitation programs, and the availability of could significantly reduce the recidivism rates and lower correctional costs.