Ana Yañez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, tells the Observer that legislators are not necessarily enamored with enhancements, but that they are basically the default language the Council uses when drafting a bill. So if a rep asks Lege Council to draft them a bill that, say, cuts down on graffiti, without any more specifics, the first draft is usually simple enhancement language. Easy to make it look like you’ve gotten tough, without doing anything to really fix the problem.Go read the rest. IMO this is one of the most underreported, pervasively problematic legislative trends facing both our state and nation, not just this session but virtually every session.
“Automatically, there’s this assumption that increasing the penalty for the crime will decrease the likelihood of a person committing a crime,” Yañez-Correa said. “We need to think about: What actually is going to deter the criminal activity?”
That is a much more difficult problem than simply catering to the seemingly simple, yet increasingly dubious idea that stiffer penalties deter crime.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Debating criminal penalty increases
Matthew Wright at the Texas Observer blog picks up on a debate between myself and Rep. Aaron Peña over the weekend in the comments to this Grits post about the wisdom of passing new criminal penalty increases, known euphemistically at the Lege as "enhancements," at a time when Texas prisons are full. My friend Ana Yañez Correa told Wright that the Texas Legislative Council, which drafts most bills, too often reflexively assumes increased penalties deter the targeted activity, when often it's not true: