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By Steve Taylor
Riio Grande Guardian
AUSTIN – A lawmaker from north Texas has filed legislation that would allow the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to contract with private vendors to build and run prisons in Mexico.
SB 185, authored by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls , would allow the TBCJ to waive any legal requirements that would be inapplicable in Mexico.
Estes told the Guardian that the prisons would only house non-violent Mexican nationals serving time in Texas ’s correctional facilities.
“The prisons would be built to Texas standards but we could save money on both the construction costs and the staffing costs,” Estes said.
“I think the country of Mexico could look at it as economic development. It is very humane for the prisoners because they are going to be closer to their families and they would be in a Spanish-speaking environment.”
Estes said he came up with idea after hearing that the state of Arizona was studying a similar idea. He filed similar legislation late in the 79th Legislature but did not get a hearing.
Estes’s proposal was supposed to be studied in the interim by the Senate Criminal Justice committee but the panel, chaired by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, had to cancel one of its hearings and no testimony was ever taken.
According to the TBCJ, around 10,000 of the 153,000 inmates in Texas prisons are foreign nationals. Of these 10,000 around 75 percent are Mexican nationals. Estes said his office was still researching how many of the Mexican nationals currently locked up are classified as non-violent.
“I think this is an idea worth studying,” Estes added. “We are always looking for ways, if we do build more prisons, to make sure the costs are kept low for the taxpayers.”