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April 2, 2008 (512) 463-0300

PRISON OFFICIALS REPORT ON REFORM PROGRESS

(AUSTIN) -- Officials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice briefed the Senate Criminal Justice committee Wednesday on the status of several prison reforms mandated by legislation passed last session. Facing new capacity and health care problems in the state's prisons, legislators passed SB 909, which required reforms of prisons and treatment facilities, focusing on new policies for parole and improved medical care. The General Appropriations Act from last session also put millions more into offender substance abuse programs and local intervention programs and facilities.

TDCJ Executive Director Ron Livingston testified that virtually all of the mandated reforms are proceeding according to schedule. With respect to prisoner health-care, officials have cut costs by using federal programs that provide money for prescriptions, and have increased efficiency by moving to electronic records.

Parole reforms are also proceeding apace. Bed-ridden, comatose, or terminal inmates that pose no threat to society are considered for early parole, in order to move expensive treatment to a better facility that provides cheaper, more efficient care.

The committee will continue to monitor the progress of reforms, but witnesses were confident that TDCJ will be ready for its Sunset agency review late in the year, and subsequent approval by the 81st Legislature.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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