In the three years after release, about 32 percent of Texas state jail offenders and 24 percent of the prison population will be re-incarcerated, according to a Sunset Advisory Commission review of the Texas prison system released this month. Taxpayers bear the burden when offenders are re-incarcerated at an average cost of $50.79 per day, the review says.Grits was interested to see a lobbyist for apartment owners suggested a version of tort reform that might induce more landlords to rent to tenants with criminal records:
Finding housing and employment are crucial to an ex-offender's successful reintegration into society, experts say. But after serving their time, many ex-offenders find that they cannot get a job without a home address and cannot find a place to live without the money to pay rent. So they may end up roaming the streets.
During a 2011 homeless survey in Tarrant County, more than 76 percent of the 410 people surveyed said their criminal records were the main reason they were unemployed, according to Cindy Crain, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.
Kay Smith, founder of Texas Re-Entry Services, said: "If you are coming out of state prison you get $100, a bus ticket home and a suit of clothes. If they have a place to go they're lucky. If they aren't lucky they end up homeless."
During the past three fiscal years, funding cuts have curtailed Re-Entry Services' reach, Smith said.
The issue for landlords and property owners is not money, but liability, said John Mitchell, executive director of the Apartment Association of Tarrant County. Landlords who rent to ex-offenders, whatever the crime, increase the likelihood that they will be sued if that person commits another crime that harms a tenant, Mitchell said.If that's true, then we'd only have to worry about the VIOLENT offenders ending up homeless and desperate after being released from prison ... great!
"There are a lot of great people out there who are trying to get their feet back under them, but their housing options are limited," Mitchell said. "If their risks could be limited, I'm sure landlords and property owners would open up their portfolios to some nonviolent ex-offenders."
What many folks don't seem to realize is that most criminals in prison will eventually be released and the more important question than how long they stayed is how will they behave when they get out? Texas now releases (far) more inmates every year than were incarcerated in the entire prison system in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected. The Startlegram reported that, of the "75,000 inmates whom the Texas Department of Criminal Justice releases every year ... about 7,000 are expected to return to Tarrant County." That includes people who committed violent crimes. It includes sex offenders. Common sense dictates that they must be able to find a home and a job as well. Good intentions aside, if they can't, who will be surprised when, in desperation, they eventually return to crime?