Policymakers should go even further than the sunset report in bringing to the corrections system the principles of individualized intervention, accountability and performance-based funding that have guided successful education reforms.
The corrections system has too often eschewed individualized intervention in favor of cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all models such as mandatory minimum sentencing and large lockups where inmates are treated the same regardless of their treatment needs, behavior and other factors.
Meanwhile, education systems are moving toward individually tailored approaches such as digital learning and one-on-one tutoring.
Fortunately, the sunset report envisions a more individualized corrections system, calling for personalized re-entry plans for all offenders released from state prisons and the systemwide use of an individualized risk and needs assessment to guide supervision and treatment.
Individualized re-entry plans for the 70,000 Texas inmates released annually would identify what resources, such as family members and churches, are available to assist them in successfully re-entering society.
Also, the sunset report wisely recommends these personalized re-entry plans begin behind bars, before being handed off to parole officers and service providers. This coordinated and customized inside-out approach makes sense because an inmate's decisions during incarceration, such as whether he learns a trade and maintains family contacts, significantly impact success upon re-entry.
The report also recommends a systemwide individualized risk and needs assessment, which is analogous to assessments of academic proficiency that school systems have long used to determine which students to place in gifted and remediation programs.
Such assessments help allocate resources and ensure the program being offered addresses people's risks and needs. Correctional assessment instruments contain an inventory of questions covering factors such as attitudes, peers, substance abuse and mental health issues, employment and living status that have been retroactively verified to accurately predict the risk of re-offending and identify which needs must be met by a supervision or treatment program to reduce that risk.
This information enables probation and parole departments to ensure those most at risk of re-offending are on smaller caseloads and under closer supervision, while low-risk offenders are not pulled away from their jobs for unnecessary appointments.