Prison job cuts - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Possible prison job cuts

Amarillo, TX--The state of Texas faces an $18 billion budget deficit, and as state lawmakers struggle to balance that budget, one agency argues the most recently proposed cuts will directly impact public safety.

Every state agency has been asked to come up with a plan to cut 10 to 15% of their budget if necessary. For the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, that would mean laying off more than 7,300 workers - including many in Amarillo.

"Anytime we look at scaling back on our programs, the impact that we start to see is that risidivism is affected. We have inmates that start coming back to prison in greater numbers, which means they are committing more crimes," Michelle Lyons, TDCJ spokeswoman said.

The bulk of layoffs would be guards and parole officers - over 5,000 of them in total.

Lawmakers say the 15% cuts are a worse-case scenario, but some slashes are certain unless taxes are raised.

"We have to make those cuts everywhere else and they are very, very painful because they are coming from programs that do a lot of good, that are absolutely essential to the state of Texas," State Senator Kel Seliger said.

In neighborhoods near the prisons, many are worried about the cuts.

Some even say they'd be afraid to let their children play outside with the risks of escaped convicts from an understaffed prison.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Lawmakers say if the cuts have to happen, they will probably be temporary as Texas's economy is already starting to rebound.

In addition to personnel layoffs, the cuts would also include eliminating several rehabilitation programs.

If the cuts are actually made, that won't happen until 2012. 

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