Saturday, June 25, 2005

Perry's vetoes worse than reported

The press and the public haven't caught on yet, but Texas Governor Rick Perry's insensible criminal justice vetoes appear almost designed to provoke a crisis. Here's why:

As of last week, Texas prisons are officially full and must contract to rent space for all new prisoners from county jails. Unbelievably, though, it turns out
Governor Perry line-item vetoed funding in the budget for those beds. Since he also vetoed HB 2193 by House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden strengthening Texas' probation system (which would have partially stemmed the overincarceration crisis), as of right now Texas officially has more prisoners than the state can afford to incarcerate, with the problem getting worse every day into the foreseeable future.

Funny, I noticed the Governor failed to add new money for building prisons to the list of items eligible for consideration in the new special session! That's what's needed, though, if the Governor's decisions stand. In a June 21st letter to Governor Perry protesting the veto of HB 2193, Chairman Madden wrote:

[I]t is important that I bring to your attention the affect your line item vetoes in SB 1 will have on our criminal justice system. Last week I was informed that our prisons have reached capacity and that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) will be contracting 575 new beds in our county jails. Today I learned that you have line item vetoed $19.2 million dollars in new funding for TDCJ to contract these beds from county jails. This trend of contracting with county jails will continue as our system continues to put non-violent criminals behind bars for technical revocations.

Additionally, $6.5 million was vetoed from CJAD that provided Treatment Alternative and Incarceration Programs (TAIP). Throughout the legislative process this session, all interested parties have noticed we need additional funding for treatment. This veto furthers our crisis and need for additional funds for treatment in our criminal justice system. Denial of these treatment resources will only result in more low level drug offenses going to an already overloaded and expensive prison.
How unbelievably short-sighted! Vetoing HB 2193 was a bad, budget-busting decision that harmed public safety. Regular readers know the prison system is chock full while the current probation system is broken, with more than 77,000 absconders out there who the state can't even locate. That makes it even stranger why Governor Perry would choose to veto money for beds for more prisoners -- his veto of stronger probation makes inevitable the need for the money.

Think about it: Texas prisons are full, so the Governor vetoes both legislation that would cause fewer non-violent offenders to have their probation revoked, and also money for leasing space for those offenders who now inevitably will enter the system. The veto of drug treatment money, I suppose, was just for good measure: Texas wouldn't want any of our addicts to kick their addictions, after all, or else they might not need to be incarcerated.

It all makes your head hurt just thinking about it.

5 comments:

Docdoer said...

I wonder if they plan to put up tents for the convicts. They righteously did it in Arizona.
It's amazing how a city that wants to be world-class can find itself doing things that many 3rd world countries have too much compassion to do.

Anonymous said...

You don't think it is fair to put non-violent offenders back in jail for violating their probation? What if all other resources have been exhausted for these offenders (which believe me, they usually have been). I don't agree that we need to build more prisons/jails/tents etc. Theft and Burglary isn't technically a "violent" crime, but I wouldn't want people on probation out there burglarizing my home because they know they won't get sent back to jail for it. Also you have to consider the nature of these probationers' offenses and the nature of their technical violations. Have you even researched the efforts that are being made by Texas criminal justice agencies to reduce the number of revocations for technical violations. Our Governor is not my favorite politician by any stretch, but give the criminal justice agencies a little credit.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ anonymous:

You ask: "Have you even researched ...?"

Uh, yes. See here, e.g., and here.

Do you feel the same about drug crimes as property crimes?

Read more throughout this blog and you'll see I focus a lot on the need for programming to help probationers succeed. Right now Texas does virtually nothing but revoke when they go astray, even for technicals. We need progressive sanctions that keep more low-level offenders out of prison.

Perry's vetoes have created a serious capacity crisis in Texas prisons. It's a hole we can't spend our way out of. We have to think, too. Best,

Anonymous said...

Texas does alot more that just revoke when they go astray... We offer to send them to drug treatment; they refuse to go and continue to use drugs...Others take advantage of the chance to get help. The ones who don't, often commit other offenses because they are under the influence... What should we do when they refuse to comply with the orders given by the court. Texas is spending a fortune in rehab and resources to help people get it together... Don't blame probation when the person refuses to accept the choices they are given. Rick Perry is an idiot.

timothy moriarty said...

[Subject] StateDemocracy.org Equips You for the 2008 Elections

Dear Citizen:
Are you ready yet for the November 4th Elections? How about your friends, family, and neighbors?
More Americans are expected to vote this year than ever before in history, so don’t be left out! Be sure to ask everyone you know the following questions:
 Are you registered to vote? If you moved recently, have you updated your voter registration?
 Did you apply for an Absentee Ballot? Do you know your state may not require any reason?
 Can you find your local Polling Place? Do you know it may have changed from last time?
The answers to these questions -- and all your voting needs -- can be found at www.StateDemocracy.org -- the FREE 1-Stop citizen empowerment portal that Delivers Democracy to your Desktop! StateDemocracy is among the Internet’s first (since 2001) and most encompassing civic empowerment tools.
In order to boost voter participation this year, StateDemocracy.org is offering FREE widgets for all 50 states. You can simply download and embed these widgets into your own website so your visitors can register to vote, get an absentee ballot or find their local polling place.
Lobby Congress Via StateDemocracy
StateDemocracy.org also equips you to maintain an active dialog with your state and federal lawmakers once they are elected. And RIGHT NOW is an especially opportune time to contact your U.S. Senators and House Member, as Congress takes up major legislation on such issues as offshore oil drilling, another economic stimulus package and all federal appropriations bills over the next few weeks.
As you lobby your elected officials, remember that lawmakers view your constituent input as reflective of scores of other citizens who felt similarly, but didn’t have (or take) the time to share their opinions.
LobbyDelegates.com Further Empowered Grassroots Voices
Over the past 5 months, you may have visited www.LobbyDelegates.com, along with 26,000 other visitors. This latest public interest portal by the StateDemocracy Foundation remained the only online tool enabling rank-and-file Democrats to lobby all 800+ Super Delegates on which candidate to back for the party’s Presidential nomination.
StateDemocracy Foundation Website Users Unite!
Many of you have used our StateDemocracy.org and LobbyDelegates.com tools in recent times, and have hopefully found your experience uplifting and empowering. I encourage all of you to help spread the news about StateDemocracy.org to enable more of our fellow citizens to Connect! Engage! And Empower!
Sincerely,
Ken Laureys, Executive Director
StateDemocracy Foundation
Ken.Laureys@StateDemocracy.org

P.S. If you are interested in becoming more involved in our StateDemocracy Foundation -- including volunteering as an Advisory Board Member -- please contact me.