Texas Prison System Reform
From my experience with criminals as a criminal attorney, I do not believe that they are all worthless. I believe that many of them can be reformed and under the right circumstances can be successfully reintegrated into society.
When I am governor, I will immediately seek out large corporations who would be interested in taking advantage of the untapped labor pool of 160,000 inmates in the Texas Prison System. I would enact laws which would allow these corporations to set up their manufacturing operations within the prison walls. I would enact laws that would allow these corporations to hire these prisoners for minimum wage. This would allow these corporations to save significantly on their labor costs.
I would then require that half of the wages earned by the prisoners be garnished by the state to pay for the cost of running the prison system. I would reduce this amount to one third for those prisoners who had to pay child support. If a prisoner had to pay child support, then I would allocate up to another one third of his or her net pay to cover those obligations. If a prisoner did not have child support obligations but had an amount due for reparations to his or her victims, I would take one third of their pay for that purpose. The prisoner would not be left with less than one third of his or her net pay before deductions other than taxes and social security. This would allow the prisoners to buy things that they would not normally have without an opportunity to work while in prison.
This plan would accomplish two objectives. One, it would allow the prisoners to learn a legitimate job skill and possibly go to work for the same corporation once he or she finished serving his or her time. It would also go a long way toward paying for the care of prisoners.
I would eliminate reducing sentences based solely on good behavior, but instead would reduce sentences based on the prisoner working for one of these corporations, obtaining an education, attending counseling and so on. The reality is that prisons are presently facilities for higher education for criminal activities when they need to be facilities for reintegrating these people into society.
For those who participate in these programs, I would significantly increase the amount of time they would have to visit with their families. I believe that increased family time would increase the prisoner's desire to exit the system and never return. I believe in order to survive in society, one must come to the realization that one must work and one must not break the law. I believe that prison, much like military service, is a surrealistic environment and its takes a while to get adjusted to civilian life after exiting the system. Therefore, the closer the prison experience is to real life, the easier will be the adjustment.
I have an equal commitment to the families of the prisoner. I believe that returning these prisoners to their families is a desirable and obtainable goal where everyone benefits.
I believe that there is presently a danger within the criminal justice system to place more people in jail in order to support the many facilities that have been built to house them. The prison system has reached a point to where it has become more of a business than a correctional facility. By this I mean that the state is almost required to keep these facilities full in order to save money. This is a dangerous potential and must be carefully examined.
Let there be no misunderstanding. I believe that crime should be punished. But I do not believe that all criminals have no potential to return to society as a viable and law abiding citizen. As governor, I will work hard to reduce the costs of caring for prisoners and to increase the number of criminals that are successfully reintegrated into society and returned to their families.
The next governor of Texas
September 2, 2001