Texas DWIs Nightmare Will Get Worse With Budget Cuts

FACT: Texas leads the U.S. in the number of people killed in wrecks caused by drunk drivers – 1,473 in 2008 alone.

FACT: Texas has one of the highest number of people serving time for DWI – 6,200.

FACT: Ralph Lynn Foltz Jr. was arrested for his 11th DWI after leading police on a dangerous high-speed chase through the streets of Galveston and Brazoria counties several months ago.

FACT: John Barton killed two people and injured three other family members in the DFW area Sunday night. He should have been locked up in the state penitentary serving his jail sentence and treated for his alcoholism after being convicted of his third DWI.

FACT: Barton was driving his wife’s car which did not have the required engine interlock.
Even so, Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told the Dallas Morning News that “he couldn’t operate a motor vehicle unless it had it had an ignition interlock.”

FACT: Barton had a valid driver’s license.

FACT: The governor has ordered the Department of Criminal Justice to cut five percent from its budget, including $7.8 million from its treatment programs, which will eliminate help for 1,346 DWI offenders.

FACT: The state, knowing that we have a serious DWI problem, recently almost tripled spending on state prison treatment for DWI offenders from $36 million in 2007 to $97 million in 2010.

According to the TDCJ spokeswoman, the extra money has been worth it, with 6,000 new treatment slots being created with the money, including a 500 bed DWI treatment ward in East Texas.

“We’ve seen it have a positive impact not just on the individuals, but overall on the inmate population, Lyons said. Furthermore, the treatment has treatment has greatly reduced the number of offenders who return to prison.

However, the treatment programs are apparently not working. “We’ve had him (Barton) in prison twice and done nothing to treat his alcoholism. And now we have a tragedy,” said State Senator John Whitmire, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

While I understand that our state is facing an enormous potential budget deficit of $18 billion and must cut back services, this is clearly not the place to do so.

“DWI will kill you, just like a gun will. It’s one of our most serious crimes,” Senator Whitmire said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is working hard to get more car ignition locks, police sobriety checkpoints, and treatment to stop these tragedies from reoccurring.

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