Monday, January 17, 2005

Bad Solutions: List of Bills Increasing Criminal Penalties

"Not every tragedy can be prevented by legislation. Not every crime is reason to revamp the criminal code."

Solutions for Texas has usefully compiled a list of all bills filed so far in the 79th Texas Legislature that increase prison or jail time. While no one condones criminal activity, these bills should be opposed as a class. The prisons are brimming, and already there are 1,941 separate felonies on the books, each passed one at a time by well-meaning legislators worried about preventing a specific crime, who but didn't stop to look at the big picture.

In the past, Grits has criticized the biennial legislative hobby of increasing criminal penalties without regard to the cost. The practice is known euphemistically as "enhancing" penalties, but nothing is enhanced by the practice. Instead, increasingly harsh penalties swell costs and harm families without reducing crime.

Will this be the year the Texas Legislature realizes the human and economic costs of increasing criminal sentences and changes direction? You wouldn't think so from these bills. It's early, though, and not crunch time, yet. Thanks to Ann for keeping track of this.

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