by Amy Goodwin on February 3, 2011

Yes, I am in education. While I’m very concerned with all the talk of cutting budgets in education, I am also concerned that this education talk is overshadowing another huge issue facing our state. What is a happening to our Texas prison system?

Our prisons are already overcrowded, yet the Texas Legislature is proposing a reduction in funding to public safety and criminal justice operations, including the state prison system by 12.7 percent. This is bad news for the general public.

I am not hoity-toity when it comes to criminals. To some extent, I grew up around them. Being the daughter of a small town attorney who practiced all types of law, including criminal, I came into contact with people with a “record” plenty.

One of my earliest memories is standing at the sliding glass door in our kitchen, looking out on our backyard, watching a strange man rake leaves.

“Mom, who is that man outside?”

“One of your dad’s clients. He’s dangerous, so you are NOT going outside.” (Rake leaves for legal fees.)

There was XX XXXX. He worked out on my Godfather’s ranch. My brother and I loved him, because he was a real cowboy. He roped cattle and let us ride horses. One day my dad came home and said, “XX stabbed a man to death last night in a bar. He is going to prison.” My brother and I were devastated. Dad took us to see him at Goree Unit in Huntsville. We were probably 10 and 7 respectively. He was so happy to see us. I remember feeling sorry for him, because he slept in a big room with a lot of other men, and he said they all snored and fought over which television program they’d watch.

XXX XXXXXX held the dubious distinction of longest on death row before execution. No one ever told me what he did to get there, just that he was “on dope” when he committed his crime and every day he regretted what he did. He was a family pen pal. He’d send us chatty letters including what he ate for dinner, and what book he was reading. My mom, dad and brother would visit him in Huntsville, but I always declined. One day he sent me a jewelry box he’d made out of match sticks. He invited my brother and dad to his execution date in 1997, but they didn’t attend.

All this is to say I have known criminals, and I have seen them pay for their crimes.

If the Texas Legislature makes that drastic of a cut, crimes may go unpunished, or in the very least, the punishment may be incommensurate with the crime. Texas will start emptying out the Texas prisons. It’s already happening. I read that one man, serving a life sentence, is eligible for parole after serving only 5 years. How is it possible he is eligible so soon? TDCJ is upping his time for good behavior. His crime was violent, and he’s a repeat offender.

It’s time to start writing legislators. Who represents you?

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