Saturday, August 15, 2009

Good news for once: Texas among national leaders at reducing incarceration rate

I couldn't find a way to post the graphic, but take a look at the fascinating chart on page 5 of this DOJ Bulletin (pdf) depicting the change in states' incarceration rate per 100,000 residents over the period 2000-2007. Only New York reduced its per capita incarceration rate more than Texas. Here are the highlights:
From 2000 to 2007, the imprisonment rate increased from 478 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents to 506 residents per 100,000. Imprisonment rate refers to the number of prisoners sentenced to more than one year, under state or federal jurisdiction, per 100,000 U.S. residents. State (37 states) and federal imprisonment rates increased between yearend 2000 and yearend 2007. States with the largest increases during these years were Kentucky (up by 139 prisoners per 100,000 residents), West Virginia (up by 123 prisoners per 100,000), Alaska (up by 106 prisoners per 100,000), and Indiana (up by 91 prisoners per 100,000) (figure 2). The sentenced jurisdiction populations of these four states also increased during these years. With the exception of Alaska, the general populations of these states increased only slightly.

During the same time period, the imprisonment rates in 12 states decreased. New York experienced the largest decrease of 62 prisoners per 100,000 residents, followed by Texas, down 61 prisoners per 100,000 residents, and New Jersey, down 54 prisoners per 100,000 residents. The sentenced prison populations in New York and New Jersey declined during this period. In Texas the prison population increased from 2000 to 2007, while the state resident population increased at a faster rate, leading to the decline in the imprisonment rate. Kansas was the only state in which there was no change in the imprisonment rate.
Given that the same period largely saw reduced or stable crime rates, it's particularly impressive that Texas' incarceration rate declined so much. To me, that chart on p. 5 really highlights how remarkable Texas' decision has been to to shift resources, even at the margins, away from incarceration and toward programming and community supervision. And the trend has been even more pronounced since 2007.

Of course, at their peak our incarceration rates were the highest on the planet, so we've still got a long way to drop before our levels approach other states' average. At last count, about one in 22 adult Texans were in prison, on probation or on parole. Still, the trend is encouraging, especially by comparison to, say, Kentucky or Florida.

1 comment:

Boyness said...

I would say that the light at the end of the tunnel may be on but I cannot see past Rick Perry's hair. I hope Texans finish thus job and show him the door on election day!