Last Tuesday, the commissioners court voted to suspend negotiations with CCI on the faith based prison project. This puts an end to this two year long project. Here are some final thoughts.
We had no real problems with basic concept of this project. It doesn't take much to see that the prison system is not working. With the highest incarceration rate in the world, and a very high recidivism rate, it is obvious a new approach is needed. That was never in question.
There were really 2 questions that could never be properly answered First, could CCI deliver what they promised. Based on the lack of good financial data, and questions about what would happen in the event of a bankruptcy, the answer appears to be no.
The other question is whether a prison is something that is good for the area. I really think the answer to that one is also no. You can talk about the jobs it brings all you want, but the real world studies I have seen show that prisons tend to scare off other industries. I also think that the incarceration rate must come down. We are at about 5 times the rate of other industrialized countries. Our high crime rates show that imprisonment by itself doesn't solve crime. There are numerous studies and pilot programs out there that should cut the prison population signficantly. The bust may already be starting, as there are some new prisons that are sitting empty.
The reality is there are plenty of prisons. The justice system and communities need to be doing a better job of making them empty.