Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reduce inmate population to cut prisons budget

Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman has a story today ("State looking at release of foreign, or sick inmates") in which legislators finally acknowledge the elephant in the room: Cutting as much at the Department of Criminal Justice as proposed in the draft House an Senate budgets will require policy changes to reduce the real number of human beings locked up, beyond just cutting the budget. His story opens:
Faced with making deep cuts to schools and human services programs, closing at least two prisons and slashing rehabilitation programs, legislative leaders are beginning to talk about what is usually unthinkable in tough-on-crime Texas: releasing more convicts to save money.

Not violent offenders, mind you, but nonviolent foreign citizens who are eligible for parole and old, infirm convicts, some of whom have been diagnosed as dying.

"We don't have the resources to continue business as usual in Texas," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston , whose committee oversees prison operations.

"Everything is on the table for discussion this year. Everything."
Of course, Grits has discussed these ideas before, but now that budget issues are on the front burner, they're not being pooh-poohed the way they might have been just a couple of months ago. On illegal immigrants, Ward reports:
About 3,000 were behind state bars as of December for nonviolent or drug offenses, according to statistics from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. All were listed as parole-eligible. All are targeted for deportation as soon as they are released. The majority of the inmates in question were in the country illegally before their arrest, lawmakers said recently.

By some calculations, sending them all home could save more than $54 million a year — enough to restore some of the deep cuts planned in prison, human services, public education and many other state programs.
On medical parole: "Several hundred inmates who are considered terminal or completely incapacitated are among those being looked at for release, lawmakers said. The cost savings from these medical releases have not been determined."

A couple of remarkable quotes jumped out at me from the article. First:
"What this state is finally realizing is that we've got too many people locked up who may not need to be in prisons," said Sheryl Lynn Washington, a crime victim advocate from Houston and self-proclaimed tea party activist who was at the Capitol on Tuesday urging more treatment and rehabilitation programs and less imprisonment.

"Use prison only for the worst, most violent offenders, not everyone who violates any little law."
I'm not sure most folks would associate this issue with tea party activists, but it goes to show the extent to which the subject crosses party and ideological lines. Another remarkable quote comes from a victims' rights advocate:
"If they want to get rid of the dopers, OK. The drunks, hot check artists, the thieves, OK," said William "Rusty" Hubbarth , an Austin lawyer who is a vice president for Justice for All, a Houston-based crime victims group.

"But they should keep all the sex offenders and the 3G (violent) offenders right where they are. They don't need to go anywhere."
Of course, Grits would prefer the Lege consider even bolder options for reducing the inmate population. But I find it telling that even traditional "tuff-on-crime" types recognize that continuing to lock up low-level offenders isn't a viable financial option. If the tea party folks and victim rights advocates can wrap their heads  around that concept, maybe it's not completely beyond the pale to hope that, before the 82nd session is complete, a majority of Texas legislators will be able to do so, too.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everyone check out the report by the Legislative Study Group..They claim Texas is now ranked dead last in spending per capita for mental health in America...

Sad---

Texas Maverick said...

There are many ways to be convicted of a sex offense, many that do not constitute a threat to public safety. Myth - all sex offenders are the same; this is not true. The NIC has much research refuting this myth. Some sex offenders could be released with endangering public safety. "Rusty" Stop with the unfounded hysteria.

Anonymous said...

Bad ideal if the current Parole Director and his two underlings, Pat and Pam are in charge of the supervision of the released offenders. To make such a proposal a reality the Parole Division needs individuals of talent, vision and organizational skills who are dedicated to public service.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just wanted to say that I'm a very liberal person. That said, I know I'm in the lion's den here. But I think we can agree that prisons are breaking state budgets. Here is one area where conservatives and liberals can probably agree one some solutions.
- keep nonviolent petty drug offenders out of the expensive prison system.
- provide better programs to integrate people back into society, otherwise they'll just end up back in prison.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:14 P.M, you are not in a lions den here with your views. I think liberal and conservatives alike believe similar on this subject.
The problem lies in your last point to provide better programs to integrate people back into society.
The current leader of the Parole Divison does not appear to be treatment "friendly" and does not believe in that concept. If you notice each time a budget cut is proposed, Mr. Jenkins places treatment and rehabilative programs on the top of the list to be cut. That indicates to me that Treatment is at the bottom of his priorities.
Not until the menatlity of the persons responsible to habilitate offenders is changed the taxpayers of Texas will continue to get the same results of a large amount of offenders returning to prison.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to speak about releasing prisoners without addressing the very real swing towards drug offenders being a health issue,instead of a judicial one.

We have spent a trillion federal tax dollars trying to stop drugs from coming into the US in the last 40 years and locked up millions of Americans in pursuit of the "golden dream",a drug free America,just as impossible to achieve as electing legislators
without any self interest in their jobs.

Who do we surrender too?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many DWI's it takes before someone is no longer considered to be "non-violent?" It takes at least 3, of course, to get to a felony level. Should we just hold off until they kill someone?

hilaatu said...

I think the budget cut is good....but what about those inmates that did the majority of their time and don't have any disciplinary action against them the whole time they been in? People can change as time passes on....but according to the TDCJ family business (is what I call it) a crime is a crime no matter what you done. "JOB SECURITY, THINK ABOUT IT!"

Anonymous said...

Texas Maverick I totally agree with what you said here, I am a conservative, have always believed a sex offense deserved prison, but now I am on the other side and know someone who is charged with one and it is nothing that deserves prison, it is even questionable if it is what they say, every case is different, this is non violent, a person who has never been in trouble their whole life, and is really a very good person, and I know they all say that, I even use to say RIGHT!But from now on when I hear of someone who has a sex offense I will first find out the whole story before I judge. Good comment

sunray's wench said...

Texas Maverick ~ absolutely. And it is the OFFFENCE that is violent, and not always the inmate. There are plenty of inmates in TDCJ right now for non-violent crimes who make everyone else's lives miserable with their constant attacks on staff and other inmates.

But this is a good start.

Anonymous said...

Rusty is not to smart when it comes to what constitutes being labeled a sex offender. Maybe he needs to visit the TX voices website and get a little education. Rusty probably wouldnt know a sex offender if they were to walk up to him and urinate on the street in front of him.

Anonymous said...

Releasing older, ill prisoners will save TDCJ some money, but the savings will be offset by increased medical expenses for local entities to which the oldsters are released.

Releasing "foreigners" and then deporting them? Why not just deport them to start with?

Rev. charles

Anonymous said...

I read all the comments and agree with them. One of the ways to get people released is clean out the parole offices. The parole authorities?? are people who don't care about anyone but themselves. Many of them are intent on keeping everyone in to do 2/3 of their sentence before they are allowed to be released. Then how are those who are released going to find a job with tha felony hanging over their head? I say when someone has completed the entire sentence or the part deemed necessary, remove that from each and everyone's record. To do less is just wrong. We all get blessed every day, all we have to do is believe and ask Him for forgiveness. So, why do we make those who made minor mistakes continue to pay??? Texas is supposed to follow the 7 year law, but tell me who follows this!

sunray's wench said...

What 7 year law is that?

Anonymous said...

Violent Offender, like the sex offender is case by case. For example a 98lb 17 year old Spanish girl, with an attitude like many 17 year olds, gets stopped on her way back from picking up 2, 0.25 oz bags of weed. The 6 foot + white pig searches the car finds the weed and attempts to arrest this little girl. They scuffle, she gets hit with 10 years for beating up a pig and 20 for distributing. Right she really hurt this pig. She has been in the Gatesville gulag for 18 years. This is one of thousands of stories out there. I can believe we pay taxes to support such a police state for this type of duchebag bulling by pigs, DA’s and ssob’s against our citizens. We have programs in schools that talk about the evils of bulling and yet we still allow these slugs in corrections to carry themselves in such a despicable manor. All one needs to do is look at the resumes of the people on the BPP, and any decent intelligent human being would ask, WTF.

Anonymous said...

I was under the (apparently false) impression that prison was punishment and REHABILITATION. What about the 3g offender who has spent 20-25+ years rehabilitating his or her self? Clean prison record the entire time still seems to mean just more and more punishment. There's just about no threat for their release since if that person had been violent or anti social they had many many years to display it in prison. Programs to learn a trade mean nothing if you're so old you can't work when you're ever released. I agree with non violent offenders and illegals being released on parole and/or deported, but maintain the former category I've described above would be a lesser risk. So what is it - pure punishment or rehabiliation and parole?

Texas Maverick said...

Anonymous 10:58 Check out http://txvoices.com/

OneWhoCares said...

Until the legislators have shown their constituents that they are not afraid to tell the truth about "sex offenders" (the very very low re-offense rate and where the crime usually happens against children) - we will not get Rusty or anyone else to understand. We need the entire parole board gone and a new one put in place. People that spout off junk science don't need to be in power to ruin people's lives.

Parole Officers are either very good (keep em) or VERY bad (get rid of them and replace them with people who CARE about the former offenders finding jobs, being with family, etc.) - and the parole board has GOT to go. It's corrupt as corrupt can get. It's all about the almighty $$ and how many they can stick back in prison. It's like a game to these bad parole officers. They LOVE violating these young men who did nothing more than any of us did as young men!

Anonymous said...

To Sunray's Wrench, the 7 year law is after a person has completed 7 years of being in confirmation of the laws, businesses cannot look up their past without permission. Look into search, TX 7 year law.

Anonymous said...

I agree that they need to take a look at how offender's are classified as "violent." The most non-violent person I know is in prison for a 3g offense. She is only there because of a mental illness and she should have gone to a hospital instead of a prison but that is another issue. No one who knows her would consider her to be a "violent" person. It is almost laughable to think she is classified as a "violent" offender. Any kind of objective, common sense, risk assessment would show that she is not a threat.

Unfortunately, common sense is not to be found anywhere in Texas government.

sunray's wench said...

The 3g category was a knee-jerk reaction by the Legislature (who'd have thought it?). There is no reason to have it in place beyond perpetuating the BPP's inadequacies.

There are far safer, far less expensive and far simpler ways of determining when an inmate may be ready for parole that actually encourage rehabilitation and not punish it.

r_shacklefor2012 said...

Which Rusty are we talking about, here? I think the sex offender laws are totally ridiculous. People get the same label for peeing on a tree in a park as they do for molesting a child. The tree pee...er should be handed a $25 citation, the other ought to be shot. And would be, if it were my kid.

Anonymous said...

Release the foreign from prison and they will be back over the border before the sun sets.

Anonymous said...

what about the ones that are registered sex offenders since they were around 15, didnt do anything that any other young kid ever done at that age, now is 21 and just on here say the law is taking him to court for failure to register? and he was, but another county is saying he wasnt regisistered in there county where he visited his family, right next to his, not even 7 miles from his county?? He could be facing prison and didnt really do a thing wrong, and all this on just here say!!! Get real, this cost the state $$$$$$$$$

Anonymous said...

Anon12:43-
welcome to my world. My spouse was arrested for motion to revoke probation and his probation papers were signed a week AFTER he was arrested on a motion to revoke. When this was pointed out to the judge, her response was, "I don't care, you're going to jail anyway."

I used to trust the system.. not any more. Good luck to you and your family member-