By contrast, noted the New York Times, "In Florida, the average time served rose by 166 percent; in New York, 2 percent." (Notably, New York's crime declines have led the nation, flying in the face of the notion that longer incarceration times are the cause of modern crime reduction.)
Grits finds this data fascinating. Texas sentence lengths (on paper) declined significantly over the 20-year period, while the proportion of sentences prisoners served rose by even more and actual time served increased. The bulk of the Texas increase occurred in the 1990s, when the proportion of sentences served for violent and nonviolent crimes in Texas increased 101% and 99%, respectively.
For violent offenders, those trends flattened out after 2000, with sentences and the proportion served staying about the same ever since. But sentencing for nonviolent offenders remained dynamic and began to reverse itself. From 2000 to 2009, the average sentence length for nonviolent offenders decreased 68% (for reasons which elude me), but offenders served a greater proportion of their allotted time, so the decline in incarceration length came to just 37% over that period for nonviolent offenders.
All told, Texas prisoners released in 2009 who'd been convicted of a violent crime stayed in prison 44% longer than those released in 1990, while drug and property offenders served 14% and 15% longer sentences, respectively. The study was able to calculate that, for Texas prisoners released in 2009, the 8 months extra average length of stay compared to 1990 cost taxpayers an extra $620.1 million.
The report closes out discussing strategies used in various states recently to reduce incarceration times:
- Reclassifying offense types
- Amending mandatory minimum sentencing laws
- Using risk-based sentencing
- Expanding earned-time opportunities
- Changing parole policy and practices
- Making administrative changes to parole
- Enacting revocation caps