Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Texas' juvie decarceration provides example for adult side

This graphic from a recent Dallas News story (4/6) says nearly all you need to know about juvenile corrections in Texas over the last four decades:


The main thing to add is that juvenile crime increased during most of the period the curve went up and was (and is) decreasing on the downward side of the slope. For the most part, high incarceration levels have demonstrated little correlation with crime, with juvenile crime reducing drastically during the period the state decarcerated its youth prisons.

Juvie decarceration in Texas is arguably the most important accomplishment of the "Right on Crime" era among Lone-Star Republicans, even if the job remains unfinished. Texas launched its juvenile decarceration scheme just four years after the GOP took over the Texas Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, and has now been sustained through successive governors, with reductions now accelerating again under Gov. Abbott.

Texas has proven the concept on the juvie side. Now the task is to convince those same leaders to apply the same lessons to the adult system, where our prison population remains the highest in the nation and the prison system releases some 70,000 people per year. Many of those people would be less likely to recidivate if they'd never been sent to prison at all!

Some days, your correspondent despairs that Texas' behemoth of a prison system can ever be successfully dismantled. This example provides hope. If juvie prisons can reduce their populations by three quarters and the public barely noticed, maybe state leaders will see that there's little political risk and a lot to gain by reining in a sprawling and outdated adult system. Indeed, as on the juvie side, adult decarceration should seen as something for which politicians can take credit, with failure to embrace it garnering blame.

3 comments:

Steven Seys said...

The only real obstacle to adult decarceration is the ingrained plantation mentality of TDCJ-CID. If we overcome this and drown out the voice of the TDCJ lobby, then common sense can prevail in the legislature.

Anonymous said...

If young males could stay off the roads on weekend nights that by itself would bring the crime stats down. A juvenile's own car is the reason why so many land in jail. It is a short hop from being pulled over for a license plate or light violation to a car search that leads to years in jail. Simply taking a cab to a party or bar can keep 3 or 4 guys out of jail----and keep thousands of dollars in the family instead of feeding the local bar association. High school teachers-----time to clue the young risk takers in.

Anonymous said...

High school teachers? More likely parents. An English teacher has too much knowledge to spread on her subject area (hell, we just had STAAR testing in this state) to have to worry about teaching teenagers how to act on the street. That all starts at home, especially since those parents will be the very ones standing in court talking about how junior is a saint.