Saturday, February 10, 2007

LBB Data Dump at Friday's House Corrections Hearing

The Texas legislative session is just getting rolling, with various committee holding their initial orientation meetings last week and this. Especially for new members (and their staffs), there is a lot of homework to do to get up to speed.

At yesterday's House Corrections Committee hearing, the Legislative Budget Board's Criminal Justice Division chief Michelle Connolly gave committee members their initial home reading assignments, distributing copies of several different reports that together give a statistical big picture regarding Texas' criminal justice system. I thought I'd provide those links here:
In particular, Connolly pointed members to the "qualitative" analysis beginning on page 19 of the population projection report with the results from interviews and focus groups with various stakeholders. Among the highlights of those qualitative findings:
  • Explanations for prison population growth most often related to a lack of substance abuse and mental health treatment available to offenders at all levels of the criminal justice system. Many believed this lack of treatment contributed to an increase in repeat offenders more likely to be sentenced to incarceration. Other consistent explanations related to socioeconomic factors such as low education levels, unemployment, and negative social and family environments.
  • Explanations for increases in direct sentences were primarily attributed to offenders choosing state jail or prison sentences over community supervision or treatment alternatives.
  • Stabilization of the current rising incarceration trends could be assisted by an overall reform of Chapter 42.12 (Community Supervision) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Specific modifications that were mentioned included shortening community supervision sentence lengths and streamlining the conditions of community supervision.
It's worth mentioning that the last bullet in large part describes the content of HB 2193 which Gov. Perry vetoed after the 79th Legislature. Shortening probation lengths and giving offenders ways to earn their way off probation through good behavior would also have helped with the problem described in the second bullet, encouraging more offenders to accept probation as part of their plea deal.

These problems were all obvious in 2005, but thanks to the Governor the needed reforms didn't begin last session. Maybe in the 80th Texas can get the job done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gov. Perry should have to be in a Texas Prison for 6 months from April through October and then he might understand what is going on.

He should be treated no differently than any other Inmate, and I would bet he would sign the bills he vetoed in the 79th Session.

Remind him he will lose his hair, not by choice but by the rules set out and for what reason this is done is anyones guess.

Mr. Perry give back the good time and the work time and stop using Inmates to work for nothing so the State can profit from the cattle sold and produce sold and all the other things made and sold for no ones benefit but the States bank account.

Think this time and do the right thing, sign the bills to make prisons better and you won't have to worry about where money is going to come from to pay teachers and other needed items, not the toll road and the coal plants you are pushing. You will save enough money by freeing those who do not need to be there and give them a life back. Give them back the chance to vote and drop the record off their name once they have completed their sentence. Do something right for a change that does not just benefit you and yours.