Texas to close a prison for first time in state’s history.

For the first time in its history, Texas is taking…

For the first time in its history, Texas is taking the steps to shutter a prison — a creaky, 102-year-old lockup southwest of Houston once made famous in the folk song “Midnight Special.” Seventy-one corrections employees will start new jobs today at other lockups, the first of several groups to leave.

Half the state away in Brownwood, a Texas Youth Commission lockup for teenage lawbreakers sits empty, one of three juvenile prisons closed effective Sunday as part of a state plan to focus mostly on community-based rehabilitation and treatment programs.

The empty cells were once unthinkable in a tough-on-crime state like Texas that once couldn’t build prisons fast enough.

Texas joins a nationwide trend of shutting expensive state prisons, driven partly by red ink in state budgets, partly by a drop in convict numbers (with the lowest crime rate since 1973) and partly by a policy shift from lock-’em-up justice to rehabilitation programs.

Source: Mike Ward for Statesman.com.

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