THE BIG CONVERSATION:
Already squeezed, Texas prisons are about to face a tough few months.
Following potential cuts to health services and public education announced this week on the heels of an additional 2.5-percent budget cut requested of state agencies, Texas' prison system chief says his agency faces a "long and difficult process" in cutting spending, The Associated Press reports.
"All of the obvious savings have been identified," Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told a meeting of the agency's board on Thursday. The agency, Livingston said, already cut $55 million in response to cuts already ordered, and the additional cuts — amounting to $75 million for the department — could force a major shake-up.
"It would be virtually impossible to avoid significant staff reductions under significant reduction scenarios," Livingston said.
And while an official said the state was not considering closing any of Texas' 112 prisons, agency officials addressed another stark financial reality: the University of Texas Medical Branch's hope, citing financial losses, to stop providing medical care to the state's 154,000 convicts at prison clinics it runs. UTMB provides care for about two-thirds of the state's prison units, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Livingston called UTMB's proposal a "fundamental shift" that would require the restructuring of a system already facing significant cuts.
State leaders have called for these agency cuts in response to a record state budget shortfall, which some estimate could top out as high as $28 billion.
- The FBI and the U.S. Department of Education have each launched investigations of the El Paso Independent School District, which stands accused of inflating state-test scores.
- The U.S. House this week nixed funding for the expansion of a key Fort Worth-area power plant, whose owners have called it the state's biggest economic development project ever.
- President Barack Obama signed a billion-dollar settlement on Wednesday with thousands of black farmers cheated out of loans and use of their land by the Department of Agriculture decades ago. But as the Tribune's Brandi Grissom reports today, a smaller number of Hispanic farmers who also sued have received what they call a risible sum in comparison.
"It's such a transparent political exercise." — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Democratic attempts to pass the DREAM Act, which on Thursday was tabled for a vote in the Senate until next week
- How often are youths restrained?, Houston Chronicle
- Texas anti-abortion group targets Planned Parenthood, African-Americans in North Florida ad campaign, The Texas Independent
- Slim Majority of Americans Would Vote for DREAM Act, Gallup
- Will Losing Season Be a Financial Loss for Longhorns?, The Texas Tribune