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Texas Studies Housing Prisoners in Foreign Countries

by F. Lee Weiss

The Texas Senate approved a measure calling for a study to investigate the desirability of housing state inmates in foreign countries.

State Senator John Leedom, a Republican from Dallas, said that his proposal could save Texas $500 million per biennium. When asked what motivated his proposal, Leedom said he was irritated that the costs to society to house an inmate in Texas is approximately $1,500 per month and that his plan was a way to cut costs.

If the study determines that the plan is feasible, Texas would house habitual and violent offenders in foreign countries. Leedom said he believes that Texans would overwhelmingly approve the plan because they are fed up with the current costly system. "The money saved on housing prisoners and building more facilities could be applied to school funding," he said.

When asked about which countries might be used, Leedom replied "Red China." He added that the Red Chinese are "very sweet people" and that it's certainly "far enough away from Texas." Leedom explained that "two dollars a day hard cash is a lot of money over there, so they will probably have the lowest cost."

If the plan is approved, Leedom explained that the foreign facilities would have to be open to Texas prison officials at any time and that jailers would have to meet Texas standards. "We're talking about a humane place," he said. "We're not talking about a Devil's Isle or anything like that."

Texas prisoner Pedro Montoya said that he felt the concept was a great idea if the goal of Texas prisons is to destroy family life and punish not only the prisoner, but his loved ones as well. "If this plan goes forward, the costs to inmates' families will rise tremendously, especially for telephone usage and visitation," Montoya explained. "I really don't think the plan is workable. What about a prisoner's right of access to the courts? A prisoner would have a difficult time contacting the courts when he is in a foreign country. I guess we will have to wait for the study's conclusion before we know more."

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