Monday, January 18, 2010

Texas' criminal justice challenge in 2010: Find solutions for the coming budget crunch

I have a guest column today over at the Texas Tribune on the subject of Texas' 2010 criminal justice agenda, in which I took the opportunity to make the pitch for planning now how to safely cut corrections spending in ways that protect recent investments in strengthened probation and parole supervision. The article concludes with advice Grits readers have heard before:
In years past, when budget cuts were required, lawmakers shielded TDCJ's “institutional division” (which operates the prisons) from reductions, which meant cost savings instead had to come from treatment and probation programming. But if the state cut off funds for all the new diversion infrastructure created over the last two sessions, we wouldn't actually save money because that's what's kept the prison population in relative check, and the diversion programs are much cheaper than building more units to house low-level probation violators.

State leaders must figure out soon how to safely cut the corrections budget while preserving recent investments in treatment and anti-recidivism programs. They'll need a plan when crunch-time comes, and this time the option of closing prison units needs to be kept on the table.
This column was first published a week ago in Texas Weekly, so when I wrote it I didn't realize that state leaders would pick up many of the same themes at this week's budget discussion at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's annual conference. It's pretty clear from that event that a lot of folks right now are looking ahead to Texas' 2011 corrections budget as a pivotal, rubber-hits-the-road moment for the state's recently launched prison diversion efforts.

My argument in the Texas Tribune is that short-term cuts in programs aimed at reducing recidivism could quickly necessitate much more expensive prison building down the line if state leaders aren't careful. If next year's budget crisis is as grievous as tax collectors predict, the Lege will be forced to set priorities for the justice system that resonate for many years thereafter, for good or ill. That's a rare opportunity, in many respects, even if it's also a daunting challenge.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the good ole budget crunch. We don't need to find a solution because I have the answer.

Let's say you marry a whore and before the honeymoon's over she gets ahold of your credit cards and heads for Neimans. I would never compare the federal government to a whore but don't the feds have their hands on our Chinese credit cards? Don't they borrow like there's no tomorrow just like the lady in question? After all it's not their money.

Texas could follow the lead of the federal government and just borrow with no thought to tomorrow. It's too bad Texas isn't allowed to print money or we could go on a mad money printing bender - just like the federal government. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that Texas can't print its own money? The other day I had a Texas state senator in my store and he made his payment with a bill called a "Lone Star Dinero". He said it could be used for legal tender or to roll my own - my choice.

Wilcoshadow said...

I have even a better solution to the good old budget crunch, but it will never fly........

My thoughts are to make every "employee" of the government subcontractors only. Therefore they would be issed a 1099 and be liable for their own taxes, instead of the taxpayers.

Think of the taxpayers no longer paying for medical, 401K-pension, employer matching taxes.

You'd be surprised how much smaller the budget would be-something the taxpayer can live with.

Also, the taxes we would paying could go toward the programs it was meant for.

But like I said..... It will never fly

Nipper

Anonymous said...

STATE INCOME TAX

ckikerintulia said...

anon 3:12--I don't know if a state income tax would fly. The sales tax starves rural counties who are steadily losing business to the larger cities nearby, increasing the property tax burden, making the counties still less desirable to live in, decreasing the property tax base, and on and on. A state income tax shared with counties and municipalities could help with this. I think the rural areas are worth preserving.

Anonymous said...

Look, none of you have addressed the prison overcrowding issue as the '93 legislature s**t hits the fan and people with petty offenses got 30+ years. People who were getting out for murder at 7 years are now in for 40 before they even come for parole. Let's get real. People are in prison for reason, they need spiritual healing. Lets' provide it, heal 'em and let 'em go. Why swell the population? Grits is correct, cutting the grass roots effort at release, parole, redemption and restoration of a human back to society won't help in the long haul.

Anonymous said...

Let's not just concentrate on TDCJ. The Texas Youth Commission has alot of facilities for a small population.

Brody said...

Anon 01:38:00

How on earth would that solve anything? Other than closing down 90% of state government... As it is there's quite a few positions (and especially skilled positions) where state employees make less than their private sector counterparts. If you suddenly gave them a 40-50% pay cut (which is what it would be if you took away the entirety of fringe benefits) then why would anyone stay? It might succeed in putting most of the hated prosecutors out on the street, but you'd do the same with every single public defender as well, not to mention empty out the AGs office, every county and district clerk in the state, the DMV, DPS, CPS, and every other agency that requires people with a college degree. And are you really suggesting making state troopers "independent contractors?" You want them to pay for their own gas, too?

Now, if your goal is to drown the government in a bathtub, maybe that doesn't sound too bad. But essentially you're proposing that we solve the budget crises by shutting the government.

Who, exactly, would be administering "the programs the budget was meant for" under such a proposal? It sure wouldn't be me.

Anonymous said...

A state income tax sounds like a wonderful idea.

Boyness said...

Let's see, how much does it cost to execute someone? Oh...nevermind!

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...

A state income tax sounds like a wonderful idea.

1/19/2010 09:53:00 PM
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OMG another idiot. Where do you people come from?

Anonymous said...

Where do they come from? From our universities. They are smarter than we are. They know it's dumb to worry about stuff like raising the debt limit.

Anonymous said...

From: The Atlantic Magazine

The Universities

Another surprise from the Massachusetts senatorial race: the paradoxical power of professorial politics. Many conservatives resent what they consider the hold of tenured, indoctrinating radicals on the college curriculum. But Tufts University, the alma mater of the victor, Scott Brown, is one of America's most politically liberal colleges, edging out Martha Coakley's Williams, and clearly beating Harvard and Yale, according to the Web site myplan.com.

Liberal campus hegemony has in fact been a godsend for conservatives.

Mini Sunshine said...

Housing offenders in indefinite Administarive Segregation is at least 5 to 8 times more expensive than general population. A reclassification reform program for non violent and/ or those without a discplinary case for ten years. Even earning their way out of this permanent pyschological damaging isolation in 5 years time would be optimum for rehabilation purposes

Old Salty said...

Sales taxes and property taxes are both regressive taxes, that do nothing positive for the economy. Texas needs to bite the bullet and impose an income tax. Times have changed. We no longer have the cushion of the oil revenues. Texas is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, but it is what, 48th in services?