Texas To Close Historic Prison

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AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Texas is preparing to close a prison for the first time in its history, a move some thought “would never come,” a state representative said.

The Central Unit in Sugar Land, a deteriorating 102-year-old prison southwest of Houston once featured in the folk song “Midnight Special,” will be vacant by the end of the month, with its 900 convicts relocated to other institutions, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported Wednesday.

“Inmates have been relocated to other units. Most of the staff is transferring to other units,” Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said. “After the end of the month, we plan to be out of there.”

A strapped state budget, a drop in convict numbers with falling crime rates and growing utilization of rehabilitation programs has led Texas to join a nationwide trend of closing down expensive prisons.

“From where Texas was just a few short years ago, this is huge,” state Rep. Jerry Madden, chairman of the House Committee on Corrections, said. “There were those who said this day would never come.”

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