Sunday, September 09, 2012

TDCJ budget grew 274% more than inflation, population growth since early 80s

This morning, out of curiosity, Grits decided to run a few numbers comparing historic Texas corrections budgets to spending at TDCJ for the current biennium. The 67th Texas Legislature, writing a budget (large pdf) for fiscal years 1982 and '83, allocated $468 million for what was then the Department of Corrections, and another $52 million for adult probation, for a total of $520 million for the biennium. (Texas budgets in two-year cycles.)

If the prison/probation budget had merely increased in line with inflation (using 1982 and 2012 to estimate) this biennium it would have reached $1.2 billion. Adjusting for both inflation and population growth (Texas' population increased roughly 76.7% over the period using 1980 and 2010 census figures as benchmarks), the total corrections budget this biennium would have been a little more than $1.6 billion.

Texas taxpayers should be so lucky. By contrast, the most recent Texas Department of Criminal Justice budget (with adult probation services now combined in the same agency with the prison system), allocated a whopping $6.1 billion for FY 2012-2013.

So this biennium's corrections budget was an eye-popping 274% higher than it would have been if spending had increased in tandem with inflation and population growth.

This is a rough estimate - the population data I used don't match precisely with the inflation data, and for this estimate I didn't dig deeper for precise apples-to-apples figures. But the number is pretty darn close, and it puts the lie to the notion that Texas corrections spending has increased over the last three decades mainly due to population growth, which is a meme Grits has debunked in the past but without the accompanying budget calculations.

Corrections spending has increased over the past three decades mainly because of policy choices by the Texas Legislature. We may not be able to alter population growth or inflation, but we can make different choices about who to incarcerate and why, and these data shows that different policy choices could make a huge difference to taxpayers.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Policy choices by the Legislature? What about the policy choices by federal judge William Wayne Justice? How could you not mention Ruiz? Before then, the Texas prison system was nearly self sustaining. The overwhelming bulk of state spending today is a direct result of federal mandates and encroachment into state government.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:53, changes attributable to WWJ account for just a small proportion of the expansion. In 1982-83 biennium the total budget was $520 million. In the 1992-93 budget, by which time all the Ruiz changes had been implemented, the two-year total was 1.2 billion.

Over the next 20 years the total blew up to $6.1 billion (in non-adjusted dollars). Over the same period the number of prisoners more than tripled, rising FAR faster than population growth. You can't pin that on William Wayne Justice.

Prison Doc said...

I yield to no one in my disdain for most of the Justice-Ruiz changes, but primarily this crisis is one of numbers.

All prison units are different, but in my neck of the woods it's minimal drug crimes and "sex offenders". I put the latter in quotes because it seems like most of what we encounter now is 19-year-olds who were dating 16-year-olds and ran afoul of angry parents and zealous prosecutors. Likewise the expansive definitions of "possession" and "possession with intent to distribute" catch a lot of folks too. My apologies to MADD but too many drunk drivers are serving excessive sentences as well. As Grits points out, these are not William Wayne Justice reforms.

CraigO said...

Yeah, I would love to know how much of this expense over the years is drug use sentences.

Vincent van Gogh said...

In Texas we lock up way way to many people who do not belong in prison at all. Also, those who do deserve some sort of prison sentence are doing way to much time for their offense. So, Grits you are right you CAN NOT lay all the increase of costs all on WWJ.

So, down the road we go locking up inappropriate numbers of people and then refusing to fund the prison system and the prison health care systems adequately. Why are the legislators and the Governor on this path? Because, correct funding for the prison system and revising our laws about sentencing is not politically expedient since it is not popular with the public.

Down the line when the Federal Judges step in and rule about A/C in the prisons and mandate better staffing so health care is not a joke, the price tag will be much more than it would of been had the Governor and the legislators been preemptive. To bad that's just not the way the world works.

sunray's wench said...

Vincent said: "Why are the legislators and the Governor on this path? Because, correct funding for the prison system and revising our laws about sentencing is not politically expedient since it is not popular with the public."

I think this is just a big urban myth. How many of the public take any notice of the Legislature and what they decide every couple of years? How would anyone know that prison reform was not popular with the public when it has not been tried in Texas? Someone needs to grow a pair and just do it, and then see how popular or unpopular it is - and frankly ignore the popularity anyway when it is the right thing to do. Raising taxes aren't popular either, but put it up as a square fight (higher taxes vs prison reform) and I think Texans will want to protect their immediate pockets rather than the minimal risk of having more inmates paroled properly from a better functioning system where the guards don't see everyone not in grey as a criminal.

RSO wife said...

Sorry, but the public really is what drives the Legislature. It's the political Golden Rule, plus a lot of indifference on the public's part. He who has the gold, gets to rule and we don't care as long as it plays well on TV.

I talk to a lot of people on a daily basis and for the most part, the ones I talk to don't research the facts, they just believe what they are told through political advertising. The politicians with the big bucks start beating us over the head with advertising 6 months before any election. Judges however get elected without anyone knowing how they actually got to be judges.

We could change a lot of things that the legislature does if we would just take as much time to research the claims politicians make as we do listening to what a favorite celebrity did last night or who's on the next reality show.

We pay more attention to who won "Dancing with the Stars" or who will be the next judge on "American Idol" or which celebrity had an affair or a baby than we do with what happens in Austin or Washington.

Maybe we could hold elections like one of those reality shows and if politicians don't do what we want, vote 'em off the island?

Anonymous said...

Probation offices have not seen an increase in supervising offenders in 15-20 years or more! 40% of budgets go for health insurance.
So a department gets paid $127.40 for misdemeanor placements and felons are $540 a year. So departments depend on probation fees and if you do a good job collecting fees you get to send about 10% back to the state!

sunray's wench said...

Sadly, quite a few people I have spoken to over the years who were born and raised in Texas, did not even know that Texas had a legislative sitting every 2 years where new laws were made.

If only Texas were an island....

Anonymous said...

If budget increased so out of whack with inflation, why is prison food worse this year??

sunray's wench said...

Anon 1.16 ~ because TDCJ are selling more of the better quality stuff they produce? Because TDCJ have no standard training plan for those who work in the kitchens to gain recognised qualifications? Because TDCJ will grab any possible dollar it can rather than reduce its overall operations?

Vincent van Gogh said...

Here we go again with the TDCJ conspiracy theory that this agency does not provide a service to the State of Texas. That in fact TDCJ is some sort of independent company making money on the backs of the inmates. You want TDCJ to reduce it's operations? A lot of people do and so do I but, it will take state government to see it through. TDCJ does not make state law.

sunray's wench said...

Vincent, I am the first to tell any TDCJ staff that as employees of the State, they do in fact work for the entire population of Texas, and should brush up on their customer service skills. However, it is the top brass of TDCJ who routinely tell the Legislators that TDCJ cannot possible reduce its operations and maintain public safety - where would the legislators get their information from if not from those who "know"?

TDCJ is not an independent company, but it is far from being a not-for-profit organisation. You really can't divorce it completely from the legislators though.

Vincent van Gogh said...

It's simple. TDCJ can't down size until there are laws passed that decreases the number of people the state locks up. TDCJ is not in control of who is given a prison sentence and for how long. They are just tasked with securing the population given over to there care.

TDCJ brass rountinely tells the Ledgislators they can not reduce operations and maintain safty...

You got that right. This is because that is the situation. If you follow this blog you have seen a map just recently of the staffing levels expressed in percentages of several prisons. 60% staffing or lower is a safty problem.

Yes, there are number of TDCJ employees who need to brush up on their customer service skills. I'd say about 99% would benefit from the course. Then again the pay doesn't attract the cream of the crop.

Has this argument just gone full circle?

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see a side by side comparison with prosecutors budget trends. If prosecutors have increased their expenditures by %274 during the same time period...
well you know the rest of the story.

Anonymous said...

I say AMEN to Prison Doc. I'm with him 100%. There are "sex-Offenders" too that their brain function was the same age as the "child" they were accused of molesting, but gets 20 years because of cronilogical age.

Anonymous said...

Look no further than UTMB abusing the system and demanding all kind of so called necessary testing procedures, and all types of pre-existing conditions being treated for full price like surgury to fix a crooked finger or knee replacement for something that happened to them when they were children. Why would UTMB hire most of the former directors of utmb as medical consultants in the early to mid 90's?

Anonymous said...

Correction.... UTMB & Texas Tech hired former TDCJ directors for consulting positions.