Poll finds more than three in four conservative Texas voters support alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders to help balance the budget
AUSTIN, TX - As Texas lawmakers debate the budget and consider legislation that enhances cost-effective alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, Right on Crime today released a poll at a briefing held with Texans for Fiscal Responsibility President Michael Quinn Sullivan and Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond.
"Texas policymakers uphold the principles of limited government and accountability when it comes to education, healthcare and dozens of other government programs, but they often don't apply those same values to criminal justice," said Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. "An overwhelming majority of Texas voters, including conservatives, support using the budget challenge as an opportunity to downsize our $5 billion prison system through cost-effective alternatives. Since 2004, Texas has achieved a double-digit decline in both its incarceration and crime rates. Now, many pending bills and the budget give policymakers an opportunity to build on this success."
The live telephone survey of 802 registered Texas voters, which was conducted by Baselice & Associates on March 20-22, found:
Right on Crime does not endorse specific legislation. However, SB1076 as well as SB1055, HB1205, and SB1077, which are summarized below, reflect one of Right on Crime's priorities: cost-effective approaches to reducing crime that protect citizens and hold offenders accountable. Corrections reforms now being considered by lawmakers would, taken together, save Texas taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.
- 67 percent of registered voters and 68 percent of conservative voters favored policymakers applying the same level of scrutiny to the size and cost of the Texas prison system as to other government programs.
- 80 percent of registered voters and 77 percent of conservative voters favored requiring nonviolent, first-time felony offenders to work and pay restitution while on mandatory probation supervision in order to help close Texas' budget shortfall.
- 78 percent of registered voters and 76 percent of conservatives favor stronger court oversight and mandatory treatment instead of prison for low-level drug possession offenders with no prior felonies on their record - a proposal that is embodied in SB1076, which is slated to save Texas $112.5 million over the 2012-13 biennium.
- SB1055 provides an incentive to counties whereby they receive a share of the state's savings for community corrections programs, such as drug courts and stronger probation supervision, if they voluntarily agree to send fewer nonviolent offenders to state lockups and achieve performance benchmarks, such as reducing re-offending and increasing restitution collections among their probationers.
- HB1205 and SB1077 allow probationers to earn time credits toward the completion of their probation term through exemplary conduct such as fully paying restitution and successfully completing treatment and educational programs.
For the full poll results, please visit http://www.rightoncrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/TX-Poll-Toplines.pdf.