The Texas Lyceum
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Texas Prisons: The Business of Incarceration
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Category: Events


Texas is home to over 700 prisons and jails, which require complex infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and a variety of public and private providers to operate the multi-billion-dollar system efficiently. How is the Texas’ economy impacted by this facet of the criminal justice system? Join us for three two-hour sessions to explore and discuss the history, legislation, data trends, ethics and priorities that shape and impact the business of incarceration in the Lone Star state.

 *Don't forget to put this conference series on your calendar!  

Conference Videos



All Sessions: 8 a.m.-10 a.m. CST

Week 1: Thursday, September 10

Fellow Presentation:


The Industry of Incarceration in Texas:  Leveraging Partnerships to Support Offender Reentry
Abigail Wesson, Texas Tech University
The Texas Prison System has undergone dramatic changes over the past 40 years, with significant shifts in inmate populations and consequent changes in the infrastructure and complexity of prison operations. With a staggering increase in imprisonment beginning in the 1980s and steadily declining since 2011, incarceration in Texas continues to generate multifaceted, economic implications for all residents, including businesses and individuals within the industry of incarceration. Amidst a sudden economic downturn and public health crisis, Texas legislators must examine the state’s correctional system to find bi-partisan policy interventions to prioritize cost-efficiency and safety. As such, this policy brief examines the economic and public policy implications of leveraging partnerships within the Texas Prison System to support successful offender reentry.





Panel: What is the future of incarceration?:
Jason Hernandez, Author of Get Clemency Now
Alice Johnson, Texas Public Policy Foundation Fellow
Marc Levin, Chief of Policy and Innovation, Right on Crime, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Doug Smith, Senior Policy Analyst, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition 
What will incarceration look like in Texas in the next 10 – 20 years? How could current and future decisions and actions – policies, legislation, activism – shift the current norms and realities that influence the prevalence of prisons, jails and detention centers in our state? How could these shifts change the economic reality of our carceral systems? Shaped by their experiences within the justice system, Jason Hernandez and Alice Johnson will share their perspectives in dialogue with criminal justice policy experts Marc Levin and Doug Smith. Together they will lead our reflections on the current appetite for prison reform and explore the trends that could impact the business of incarceration in our state.


Board Meeting: Friday, September 11, 10 a.m.–12 p.m CST (requires a separate registration, invitation will be emailed)


Week 2: Thursday, September 17

Keynote: The Business of Prison in Texas
Bryan Collier, Executive Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Ron Steffa, Chief Financial Officer, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
How much does it take to run the prison system in Texas? What is necessary to keep the system running? Come and learn the ins and outs of the TDCJ operational budget and dive into the unique ways the departments balances its checkbook to meet the needs of their population 

Panel: Private Industry in Texas Prisons
Speakers to be announced!
The industry of prisons in Texas is not as you often read in the media. Private industry within the prison system goes beyond brick and mortar, instead companies contract with state, county, and local municipalities for a variety of services such as healthcare, food, transportation, financial services, phone and video calls, education and vocational training, just to name a few. During the Texas Lyceum panel entitled "Private Industry in Texas Prisons” we will take a deeper dive with some of the leading companies providing essential services for our inmates.

Week 3: Thursday, September 24

Legislators Panel: Regulation, Reform, and the Path Forward:
Rep. James White, House Committee on Corrections
Sen. John Whitmire, Senate Committee on Criminal Justice
Rep. Joseph Moody, Texas House of Representatives 
What is the history and current regulatory environment for one of the largest prison systems in the world?  How will many of the anticipated criminal justice reforms impact its future?  With the 87th Legislative session looming, what will Texas lawmakers do or not do? Please join a preeminent panel of Texas Legislators to answer these and many other questions. The Lyceum is honored to have Representative James White, Chairman of the House Committee on Corrections, Senator John Whitmire, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, and  Representative Joseph Moody, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House of Representatives.

Ethics Exercises:
Incarceration in our state is a topic and issue that brings up a lot of questions, concerns, values and convictions. Through our ethics exercises, we hope to create a space for discussion, critical thinking and debate amongst attendees. Conference participants get to choose two options to explore in-depth with their colleagues, through a facilitated discussion. 

Topic 1- Profits and Prisons: Participants will explore the success and effectiveness in the sector. Together they will seek to answer: What is the ROI for our state’s investment in prisons? Are they effective? For whom? Who profits from prisons? Is it ethical to profit from incarceration? 

Topic 2- The Cost of Prison Labor: As one of the few states that does not compensate prisoners for their labor, participants will join in discussion to explore why this is the case in the Lone Star state and debate whether it is a policy that should or should not continue.