Monday, January 04, 2010

Two different views, both accurate, of Texas' overincarceration woes

Two recent editorials from the Houston Chronicle and the Austin Statesman look at the same set of facts regarding incarceration in Texas, with the Chron declaring the glass half-full while the Statesman sees it as half empty.
The Chron views as a positive development the fact that:
As of December, Texas prisons had 1,050 fewer inmates than in 2008.

Among the many programs contributing to these positive results, Whitmire cited one that has seen an impressive 25 percent decrease in parole violators being sent back to jail. It's a new Houston facility with 400 beds, housing parolees who have not committed new crimes but have violated conditions of parole.

“We used to just send them back to prison,” he told the Chronicle. “This allows them to get out of prison, get back on track. It's a win-win situation. We're lowering the recidivism rate and making productive citizens, which also allows us to focus time and resources on our hard-core inmates.”
By contrast, according to the Statesman:
Numbers from recent years show Texas near the top in adults on probation or parole, prisoners in state correctional institutions, inmates under 18 in state prisons and (here's the punch line) crimes per capita.

Somehow, somewhere, we have been doing something wrong. And that adds up to an unsatisfactory return on what will be a $10.8 billion investment in public safety and criminal justice in the state's 2010-2011 budget.

That's almost 10 percent of state tax dollars. By comparison, 6.7 percent goes to business and economic development and 1.2 percent goes to natural resources.

The reality is that crime stats, more than being a measure of our success in fighting crime, are a measure of our failure in so many other areas.
Both these assessments are accurate. Texas' recent reforms were both welcome and noteworthy, but our overincarceration crisis had reached such extreme levels before those changes were enacted, we still look like an incarceration behemoth compared to most other states, much less the rest of the globe.


Texas Maverick said...

I see a positive report from both papers. However, most encouraging is this link. TDCJ is also on track to make changes.
Six States Selected for NIC's 'Transition from Prison to Community' Initiative
Sep. 17, 2009
The National Institute of Corrections has selected Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming to participate in the next phase of the Transition from Prison to Community (TPC) Initiative. The TPC Model is a comprehensive systems approach to successfully return inmates to communities. NIC's project partners (The Center for Effective Public Policy and the Urban Institute) will provide technical assistance to these states during the next three ... >Read the full article.<
The light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why some of these "offenders" end up in prison in the first place. I am currently in and out of the local courthouse pleading for probation. Yet they tell me that I am not eligible. Why not give me and others like me a chance? Texas stands to profit alot more with me paying probation fees and doing community service than having me behind bars. Unfortunately though the private prison companies don't and I believe that in itself says alot about our current judicial climate.

Clifton Tinder said...

As long as the TDCJ revokes parole for technicals and sets people off to flex their muscle, prison over population will NOT decrease. Follow my blogs for all the information TDCJ ignored when it first revoked my parole in March, 2002 and then set me off for 2 years on 8-28-10.