Monday, April 11, 2011

Legislation to reduce inmate numbers so far faces little opposition

Grits has repeatedly argued that the only way to make deep budget cuts in the Texas prison system is ultimately to reduce the number of people we incarcerate. On that score, Shanon Edmonds at the prosecutors' association has compiled this list of bills totaling $185 million in savings next biennium from reducing the number of inmates in Texas prisons:
  • HB 1477 by Allen awarding an estimated 1,700 revoked TDCJ parolees credit for "street time" to accelerate their discharge; projected to save $11.5 million (pending a vote in House Corrections)
  • HB 2352 by Allen expanding early release to mandatory supervision for 9,400 more TDCJ inmates; projected to save $124 million (pending a vote in House Corrections)
  • HB 3538 by Thompson facilitating the early release of 3,000 sick or elderly TDCJ inmates; projected to save $18.5 million (pending a vote in House Corrections)
  • HB 3649 by Otto releasing early 9,000 TDCJ inmates who have less than 1 year or 10 percent of their sentences remaining; that portion of this omnibus bill is projected to save $31 million (pending a vote in House Appropriations)
  • SB 883 by Whitmire includes the same language as Allen's HB 1477 (pending in Senate Criminal Justice)
  • SB 976 by Hinojosa includes the same language as Otto's HB 3649 (already voted favorably from Senate Criminal Justice)
This legislation collectively would save much more in the out years after their provisions have fully rolled out. Another key bill that could significantly reduce the prison population is up tomorrow in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee: SB 1076 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, which would expand prison diversion options for drug offenders, who make up 30% of incoming Texas prison inmates. (See a fact sheet [pdf] on the legislation from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.)

One of the biggest surprises of the session, Edmonds bemoaned with unguarded disdain, has been how little opposition these bills faced in committee. With few exceptions, the usual special-interest groups have not come out of the woodwork to oppose them: "Not victims groups, not law enforcement agencies, not anyone," he lamented. It's true. IMO that's because pretty much everybody realizes the budget must be cut and these are rather modest proposals given the scope of modern mass incarceration. Indeed, compared to closing schools or nursing homes, these cuts enjoy relatively broad, bipartisan support.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, the lege needs to pass these bills that will release offenders, because with all the new DWI, etc. enhancements they are wanting to pass... the prisons will soon be overflowing again.

Anonymous said...

does this mean no one else gets paroled...i.e., what about 3g offenders?

sunray's wench said...

I think we have to wait for anyone to look at the 3g offenders, Anon 11.18. Just getting the Legislators to consider the options on the table is an achievement in Texas.

Slowly slowly catchee monkey.

Woodsy said...

FYI: Scott, SB 883 is way more expansive than HB 1477 -- they are far from the same. HB 1477 still faces double jeopardy attacks in court, as offenders will still be denied credit for calendar time actually served on the street if (1) they have EVER been convicted of an offense listed under 508.149(a), Tex.Govt.Cd., whether that offense has been completed discharged years ago or not; or (2) if the offender has yet to serve a year on parole. Whitmire's SB 883 would give credit to all offenders for calendar time served, whether one day or fifteen years. SB 883 is in line with the law in the other 49 states and the federal system. It is the best bill and will moot any double jeopardy challenge.

Anonymous said...

I'm worried that releasing this many without sufficient reentry services or parole officers will make the consequences similar to the massive releases from state hospitals decades ago.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

Scott,
HB 2352 by Allen expanding early release to mandatory supervision for 9,400 more TDCJ inmates; projected to save $124 million (pending a vote in House Corrections)
HB 3538 by Thompson facilitating the early release of 3,000 sick or elderly TDCJ inmates; projected to save $18.5 million (pending a vote in House Corrections)
HB 3649 by Otto releasing early 9,000 TDCJ inmates who have less than 1 year or 10 percent of their sentences remaining; that portion of this omnibus bill is projected to save $31 million (pending a vote in House Appropriations)

Isnt this simply the state getting out from under these responsibilities and shuffling them down to the county level? It seems someone will end up with these problems. We still face the problem of not having the proper resources focused on ReEntry. If we dump all these inmates out and have no resources prepared to help them then we are simply inviting disaster. I know it's asking a lot of career politicians, but we really should apply some cognitive thought process to the mass dumping of human lives that will completely overtax the current systems setup to help them. Unless the goal is simply to re arrest and re incarcerate these people we must have properly funded and prepared ReEntry agencies in place to help these men and women to rebuild their lives and families.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:22, Homeless Cowboy, certainly I agree about focusing extra resources on reentry, but fwiw these bills do NOT shift costs to counties, at least directly (though there are elements in the budget that do). Ill inmates released would mostly end up on Medicaid or Medicare, which have 2/3 and 100% federal funding, respectively. And those released a year early would be supervised on state parole, not by counties. No extra costs to them from either of these bills, and the state reduces its costs.

Anonymous said...

It's what these offenders are ultimately rearrested for, that will ultimately sway public opinion. The first time one of the parolees kills some innocent victim and winds up on the cover of Texas Monthly, these thrifty legislators will be running from this legislation like they're running from a bastard child looking for his daddy!

Anonymous said...

How about getting all of the illegals out of our prison system and sending them back to wherever they came from. If that can't happen, send them to the White House or Napalitano's office.

Don said...

Scott: If the 9000 inmates released up to a year early are supervised by state parole, whereas they would be released without parole if they served out their sentence, it would necessitate additional parole officers, overtime, or something. My question is, was additional money for parole figured in the savings? Also, the bills for diverting drug offenders would require extra money for programs. I want them to reduce the prison population and place at least some of the savings into prevention, diversion,treatment, and supervision programs. Is that what would happen under these bills. Or would it simply release them and count the money saved as money saved?

Woodsy said...

Don, while parole costs (average $3.74 a day) may increase with more people on parole, the state saves money big time not having to pay the incarceration costs ($42+ a day) for those same offenders.

Anonymous, if someone commits murder with less than a year to go on his or her sentence, do ya really think an extra 9-12 months on parole would have suddenly "cured" them of their potential for criminality? Newsflash: A very small minority of criminals will commit a violent crime after being release from prison, whether they are paroled or completely discharged. That fact should not compel state officials to treat all prisoners as if they are in that small minority, whose criminal offenses could not be prevented in any event. The state is not in the business of changing hearts as if it were Divine.

Anonymous said...

So how long before any of these folk actually start coming home?

Bills are fine.. but as slow as things move in government, most of the current short timers will be out, having served their entire sentence anyway. What's the point if they take forever to actually implement anything?

Short timer's wife

Anonymous said...

They have been removed from society and now they will soon be back with us and among us. It's Homecoming Day in Texas.

sunray's wench said...

Anon 7.57 ~ do you have any figures that state how many illegal aliens are currently in TDCJ as inmates? How would we know that your suggestion will save any money?

Anon 10.48 ~ those 9000 will be home within a year anyway, so what exactly is your point?

As I've said before, the BPP could parole many more offenders right now, without any new legislature, yet they choose not to. Unless the BPP is radically overhauled, none of this will make any difference at all.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:48, see here for a response.

Don said...

Woodsy: I know that; you totally missed my point. I was asking if money would be added on the parole/probation/diversion/supervision/prevention/treatment etc. side to take care of the extra load these bills would facilitate, or if these services would have to do more with less, so to speak.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Don, the answer is "yes," the fiscal note accounts for extra parole costs at current levels, though IMO it'd be wiser to boost $$ for treatment and programming instead of just keep it at or near constant if they're going to do this.

Don said...

I agree with that wholeheartedly. Not only wiser, but almost necessary. At least, the Senate seems amenable to some common sense on the treatment/programming, and the House is gonna have to come around, at least a little? I don't know if they will increase treatment/programming $$$, but maybe at least they won't cut cut cut, as HB1 does.

Anonymous said...

can anyone tell me who or what is classed as a 3g offender is that a person doing time for murder etc

tinkerbell40 said...

I have a 20 year old son who is a first time felon, he was an accessory to a 1st degree felony aggravated robbery, he did not perform the actual crime but provided transportation. He received 30 years, he is really a non-violent young man who comes from a good home, but made bad choices and associated with a criminal. He is the poster boy for someone whom is wasting Texas tax dollars. any laws that may benefit an alternative for him, or can you point me in the direction of whom I can speak with about his case? He is on appeal.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

There seems to be more laws passed to keep adding more people to the quote "Felon" catagory. I am a female who received a drug felony at 51,2.2 grams and I find it disheartning that we are treated like garbage. I didn't steal,no identity theft. I worked in my last job for 7 years in a strip bar as a waitress,then manager and I was considered an honest person for i always returned lost wallets,Rolexs with all the contents. With probation I'm not suspose to work in a bar anymore. My license got suspended for 6 months for getting raided. I have 6 acres,a home,thats paid for and thought maybe open up a rural country store but now theres the license issue. I have a 2 year retail degree but now many jobs are closed to me and when I apply well you know what the FELON labels does to you. Its so comforting to know that the people who might hire me would be for low end paying jobs. I've had to apply for emergency food stamps twice in my life for 3 months at a time yet a person I know went to state prison for unauthorized use of a car can get food stamps. It seems it is easier for men and younger people to upgrade their life. I have a roomate who pays his important bills,is preventing me from trying to get my license (stopped paying his car insurance so I can't take my driving test,wants my property, and where I live these hillbillies don't have a legal car,I wrecked my car a year ago and he hasn't paid on my property taxes going on year 3. Also there is no bus service in this rural area. OK I'm done with the whining, so is there any good positive advice,info somebody could give me so I can see a light at the end of the tunnel? Also asking help from friends I quit associating with them cause they're not good people anymore.

The Rumor Mill is Rapant said...

I work in a prison and I am amazed at the number of individuals who think that they are going to see a change in the way things work when their "short way" comes up. I guess nobody they know ever checked to see if the bill passed. Similarly State Jail confinees are all excited that they are going to get a 20% reduction in the time they have to serve. None of them seem to know that the new law won't affect anyone currently in State Jail. It goes into effect Sept. 1 for offenses committed after that date. And even then, it is not automatic -- the sentencing court will have to reduce their sentence based on TDCJ's report of their "diligence participation" in programs, school, training, or work. I imagine some hard case judges may decide not to change their sentence. Plus with the reductions in support for the courts, how long will processing the paperwork take - could be longer than the proposed maximum 20% reduction? Hope springs eternal I guess. In time we'll see what the realities are.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: If any one of think that the government will use the money to help these offenders who will be getting out early. that money should go to help them find jobs, help them to stay off of drugs,and keep them from selling drugs,educate them for jobs, and counciling to help to re-enter into the free world. I feel this money though will go to Obahma to spend on what ever he wants to spend it on and then he will just ask us citizens for more.

Anonymous said...

I think the money that the government will be getting on the early re-lease of inmates will not go to help them to re-enter in to the free world.It will not go to help them get counciling or jobs,to stay off drugs, or education. All these inmates will not have a place to live food to eat,or a job,so their will be more violance.Obamha will just spend the money on what he wants and ask for more. He has no control over his spending or the lies he says.