4 paragraph excerpt:
AUSTIN, Texas -
Whittington is seriously civilized, particularly on the issues of crime, punishment and prisons. He served on both the Texas Board of Corrections and on the bonding authority that builds prisons. As he has often said, prisons do not curb crime, they are hothouses for crime: "Prisons are to crime what greenhouses are to plants."
In the day, whenever there was an especially bad case of new-ignoramus-in-the-legislature -- a "lock 'em all up and throw away the key" type -- the senior members used to send the prison-happy, tuff-on-crime neophyte to see Harry Whittington, a Republican after all, for a little basic education on the cost of prisons.
When Whittington was the chairman of Texas Public Finance Authority, he had a devastating set of numbers on the demand for more, more, more prison beds. As Whittington was wont to point out, the only thing prisons are good for is segregating violent people from the rest of society, and most of them belong in psychiatric hospitals to begin with. The severity of sentences has no effect on crime.
Texas still keeps the nonviolent, the retarded, senior citizens, etc. locked up for ridiculous periods -- all at taxpayer expense. If we could ever get to where we spend as much per pupil on education as we do per prisoner, this state would take off like a rocket. In 2003, we spend nearly $15,000 per prisoner, while average per-pupil spending was just over $8,000.