A legislative push to reduce the number of vacant state prison beds took an unexpected turn Tuesday, with prison officials defending empty beds by citing a decades-old policy meant to ease crowding and lawmakers broaching the topic of buying even more beds in remote West Texas.
“All options are on the table,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, who has been pushing to shutter two privately owned prisons — a pre-parole lockup in Mineral Wells and the Dawson State Jail in Dallas — to save about $80 million a year to pay for other corrections needs.
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MOST EXPENSIVE PRISONS: At a glance
Prisons with the highest per day operating costs
Prison/Location/Cost per day/Built/Capacity/Notes
Jester 1/Richmond/$83.25/1885/323/Substance-abuse program
Mountain View/Gatesville/$80.59/1975/645/Death row for women
Hilltop/Gatesville/$76.72/1981/553/Canine training, farming
Notes: Figures from fiscal year 2009. Average cost per day for all prisons was $50.91 in 2009, about the same as current. Medical units not listed because per-day costs are higher.
Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice