Because of the 2001 law allowing prosecutors to charge prostitutes with a felony after three misdemeanor prostitution convictions, more than 350 prostitutes are serving time in the state prison system, with many more imprisoned for drug and theft crimes associated with the sex trade, the Austin American-Statesman reported Monday.
For a quarter of the cost, these non-violent, low-level criminals could be rehabilitated in community-based treatment programs instead of prison, the newspaper said.
It costs $18,538 to house a convict in a state prison for a year, compared with about $4,300 for a community-based program, the Texas Legislative Budget Board calculated.
"If it's done right, it can save lives, save money and cut crime. The cost-per-day of low-level offenders in the community, rather than in a prison, is significant," said District Judge Larry Gist of Beaumont.
Treatment programs are expected to be on the agenda when the state legislature meets again in January, the newspaper said.