Saturday, September 29, 2012

'We need rational approach to incarceration'

An op ed in the Amarillo Globe News today by restorative justice advocates with the same title as this post argues for a smarter approach to Texas corrections spending. The column concludes:
recidivism costs Texas citizens many millions of dollars annually, plus untold loss and suffering.

Unfortunately, the state’s budget woes are leading to major cuts in the very programs that help reduce recidivism, suffering and cost. Budget reductions in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have been largely focused on community supervision, parole and programming funds. Even the department’s ability to process new volunteers for work in prison programs has been impaired.

It appears the goose that could lay the golden egg is being killed by short-sighted legislative policy.

There is a better way. Some people need to be locked up to protect society — and many for a very long time. But the tendency of tough-on-crime advocates to lock up more and more people for longer and longer terms for smaller and smaller offenses, while de-emphasizing the programs aiming to rehabilitate inmates and prevent their return to prison, is misguided at best.

As responsible citizens, we all need to demand that our elected representatives take a more rational approach to incarcerating offenders, while retaining or expanding in-prison programming as a humane, recidivism reducing, cost cutting — and presumably tax saving — measure.

Required budget cuts should focus on creating a policy that aims to provide community supervision of offenders who are not a threat to society, incarcerate those who are and rehabilitate them all. And each of us should do our part by participating in or supporting nonprofit programs, such as Bridges To Life, that help restore offenders to the life of a productive, tax-paying citizen.

11 comments:

Force Majeure said...

What a great op ed. Wish it could be reprinted in every newspaper in Texas.

Just like everything else in government programs, we can't afford the system we have now. No way. Too many police, too many prisons, too much police paramilitary equipment, too many people doing time who should be in their communities. Of course, good community supervision isn't cheap either, but it is better than prisons and jail.

I encourage all Grits readers to "like" Right on Crime on their facebooks, and read and support the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

We've gotta get some restorative justice in here.

FleaStiff said...

Most taxpayers would prefer to punish rather than rehabilitate and see no reason to have rational legislation in regard to crime when they don't have rational legislation in regard to anything else.

ckikerintulia said...

We don't have rational legislation because we don't have rational legislators.

Aint gonna happen said...

I applaud "pursuit of rational approach to incarceration" but if you are not fully prepared to get your arse kicked by Texas district and county attorneys association & company, you are pretty much wasting your breath here. Prosecutors and prison industries have joined forces selling fear and profit as the selling points to keep the prison train running wide open. Ironically, prosecutors and prison industry are the biggest opponents when pointing out that probation works.

No argument with the "rational approach" point, just want to clarify that this never has and never will rise above the level of wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

This is a human nature thing. The death penalty is stupid, people know this at an intellectual level, but people love the blood. Locking chickenshit offenders up is stupid, people know this at an intellectual level, but people love the witch hunt.

People won't get involved until they see how it pinches their pocketbook directly or we shut down facebook...

jamesofwaco said...

This is supported by a book that I am currently reading: Incognito, by David Eagleman. He has a couple of chapters on punishment for crime that touch on this subject. Very interesting book.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, locking them up is stupid, and costs too much money. I'd rather be able to drag them out behind the barn and beat the crap out of them commensurate with the crime they committed. But hey, I can't do that. It would be illegal.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Ain't gonna happen": Yes, TDCAA opposes many de-incarceration reforms, along with the police unions, but in recent years they've also lost quite a bit. Before the 2007 probation reforms, TDCJ was projected to have 17,000 more prisoners by 2012 than they actually do, mainly because of legislation opposed by hard-line prosecutors. They're powerful, but not invincible.

David E said...

If you think "rational" is the operative word here, then click on the link to the Amarillo paper article. It's well written and highly "rational," but the comments made me want to hit the screen. Maybe "minimally realistic" is a better word choice, and I mean minimal.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear the "public policy foundation" go out on a limb this year and actually discuss a "rational approach to incarceration" in public forums.

I sat in on a ppf presentation two years ago and damn if they weren't pandering to law enforcement and prosecutors. The room was full of all branches of law enforcement and prosecutors so I guess they didn't have any choice but to sell out. Oh well, they are politicians at heart too.

Cathy said...

I am not real well informed about the criminal justice system in TX. I am just wondering why we do not offer any incentive for folks to stay out of trouble? Maybe offering to seal, expunge, early release of probation, parole etc. for a set amount of time staying out of trouble with the law? It seems to me that now there is no redemption process out there? LIke I said I was just thinking about this issue and was only wondering what the negative side would be to offer positive reinforcement for some model behaviour. I hope I have explained myself well. After all I always hear people say that once a person does their time they should be allowed to carry on with their life.
Cathy