Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Do conservatives want less government? Not all

Big Government Conservatism sometimes crops up in the oddest places.

When he was Mayor of Tyler, my hometown, Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, developed a reputation as a small-government tax-cutter. But he told the Paris News last month he preferred spending billions more to build new prisons instead of probation reforms backed by the Governor and legislative leadership.
“I would really want to see any details of any change in probation before I would commit,” Eltife said. “I am more concerned in making sure we keep criminals off the street.”

Eltife leaned more toward imprisonment.

“If it looks like we need additional prison space, we need to build the jails,” Eltife said.
Maybe Bas could take him on a tour of a Texas prison so Eltife can see the failed strategies we're financing. It's hard to believe anyone fancying themselves a small-government conservative could really want more of the same.

An East Texas judge quoted in the same article was much more positive about the proposed changes:
Sixth District Judge Jim Lovett said he welcomes stronger probation programs.

“I have predicted for several years that the legislature would appropriate more money and place more responsibilities on local probation offices,” he said. “It is the only sensible solution when compared to the outrageous cost of more prison beds.”

Estimates indicate that it costs more than $40 a day to house a prisoner and about $2 a day for probation programs.

The ultimate goal of probation is to reduce criminal recidivism, Lovett said of repeat offenders.

“Locally we have been preparing several years for this time and are confident that the studies that are now in the planning stages will prove the programs adopted by the 6th District Community Supervisions and Corrections Department are reducing recidivism at a higher rate than elsewhere,” Lovett said.

Lovett spoke of several experimental programs introduced during his eight years in office, including horticultural therapy, a stepped up community service program, a sex offender therapy program, a drug and alcohol program and a recently added Paris Junior College educational program.

“These programs all are at no cost to the local taxpayer,” Lovett emphasized, adding that work probationers do in the community saves hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly.
That view is more typical of folks who work with the probation system closely -- it can work to reduce crime if it's properly structured and funded.


BJV said...

I'd think that a novel parole measure would be to hold parole boards accountable for parole violations. If a parolee committed a violent crime while on parole, parole boards could be tried as accessories.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The parole board doesn't release enough people now. I take it you must prefer your taxes high and your petty criminals hardened. That's all such a policy would get you.

BJV said...

Well, I don't believe that anyone that commits a non-violent crime should be in prison in the first place. But we definitely shouldn't be paroling murderers and rapists because there isn't enough room for the druggies.

And, BTW, I prefer my taxes to be zero, thank you.

Please note that I don't mean to come across as combative. You run an excellent blog here. Kudos.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, we're a lot closer to being on the same page, then. My thing is, right now the parole board is too scared to give ANYBODY parole, violent or not, precisely because they all fear some Willie Horton-esque episode. That they're turning those non-violent criminals into folks who have to be pretty vicious themselves just to survive in prison that long never occurs to them. Then they get out and cause more problems. Certainly there are folks who are simply too dangerous to let loose, but it's really quite a range, and a lot of folks get long sentences for juvenile mistakes.

Check out the link in the post to Bas' prison tour, and see the comments there from prisoners about the relation between the possibility of parole - even for violent prisoners - and prison safety. Hope is a great motivator of behavior. So is hopelessness, but in a negative way.

I'll agree with you, though, fundamentally, that if we weren't housing tens of thousands of non-violent offenders, they could make all those decisions based on the public interest - e.g., whether the prisoner was actually a danger - instead of whether there's space. Thanks for stopping by,

Anonymous said...

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