Friday, January 19, 2007

New LBB report predicts more incarceration despite dropping crime rates

I've not had a chance to read it yet, but this brand spanking new, blandly titled report from the Texas Legislative Budget Board, "Adult and Juvenile Correctional Population Projections, 2007 - 2012," appears to have a lot of interesting new data. I'll go through it in more detail later, but a few things immediately jump out:

For starters, Texas crime rates for both adults and juveniles are going down, but our incarceration rate is going UP! (p. 3):
Texas Crime Rate – The crime rate (number of crimes reported per 100,000 population) decreased 3.5 percent between 2004 and 2005. The total number of reported crimes also decreased (1.9 percent) between 2004 and 2005.
Texas Juvenile Arrest Rate – The juvenile arrest rate decreased 8.3 percent between 2004 and 2005 with the drug/alcohol arrest rate decreasing the most (13.4 percent).
Adult Incarceration Projections – The Texas adult incarceration population is projected to increase by 6,598 offenders from the beginning of fiscal year 2007 until the end of fiscal year 2009 (from a total of 152,894 to 159,492). By fiscal year 2012, the incarcerated population is projected to increase to 168,166 under current sentencing practices and
statutes.
And it's not just adults: TYC's population is expected to "grow modestly" by 2012 at a time when juvenile arrest rates are down more than 8% (p. 15).

Another interesting result from their "qualitiative" assessment: Many low-level offenders choose incarceration over probation and the main reason is a lack of mental health and drug treatment and other structural supports for probationers (p. 4):
According to focus groups and interviews with criminal justice decision-makers and practioners, prison population growth is most often associated with the lack of substance abuse and mental health treatment within the criminal justice system. The increase in direct sentences to prison and state jail was primarily attributed to offender preference for incarceration over community supervision. Among other things, participants suggested restoration of treatment funding throughout the criminal justice system, specific revisions to Chapter 42.12 (Community Supervision) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and recognition that juvenile offenders and issues should be managed differently than adult offenders and issues . Offenders primarily attributed prison population growth to an increase in drug addiction.
If that assessment is accurate, you'd have to think that Chairmans Whitmire and Madden are on the right path with their plan to expand treatment options instead of building more prisons.

Thanks to Isela for pointing me to the report. Lots of other interesting stuff up on LBB's criminal justice web page that's worth a look for those who are interested.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Southeastern Christian Association is finalizing a multi-faceted campaign it hinges on "the devastating effects a prosecutor's closed file policy can have on children" being certified to stand trial as adults. Were asking for all to please post your opinion about the closed file policy that is still being practiced thru-out Texas, concerning juveniles. You can post anonymously or sign off on your opinion.

Thank you http://www.westtexasbeat.net/WTB_Blog.html

Patrick Timmons said...

Since 1980, California's crime index has been dropping more or less consistently--with a few unsustained increases (blips) in the early 1990s. Yet California built 23 new prisons from 1984 - 2002. From the 1850s to 1964 California built only 12 prisons. You can find this information in Ruth Wilson Gilmore, _Golden Gulag_ UCal Press, 2007.

The evidence from the LBB's report suggests that punishment and incarceration are about something other than fighting crime. Instead, the public gets whipped up by stories of violence, the politicians run campaigns on a fear of criminals, and rural areas have to experience dramatic growth of incarcerated populations, the vast majority of whom are people of color from urban areas.

You won't hear about falling crime rates in the newspapers. California is about to engage in a massive prison building program. At the Governor's 21 December news conference annoucing this expansion, not a single person mentioned the steady decline in California's crime index. The journalists won't pay attention to any of this information either.

chris in dallas said...

I would be interested to see the breakdown in long term vs short term incarceration increase. In other words: are there just a LOT of people doing state jail and 2-3 yr sentences? Or is there a big increase in long sentences? I know many of the people I represent would rather have 6-9 months in the state jail up front, rather than pay fees, fines, etc only to revoked down the line. They think the best thing about the state jail is that you know your exact release date. No parole.

800 pound gorilla said...

From my experiences with the criminal justice system as a crime victim, I would justifiably regard them as "worthless". Not only were they totally ineffective, but most of the time I was regarded as complicit in the crime. I am loathe to report crimes since I know for a fact that I am much more likely to catch the culprit than the police are. Dropping crime rates may be misleading precisely because my attitude is not that rare - and exposure to police only increases that attitude.