Monday, May 14, 2007

Leaders from right and left work toward same legislative goals

Without question, pending probation and parole reform legislation would ever have gotten as far as it has in the 80th Texas Legislature if not for hard work bytwo key, young leaders from opposite ends of the political spectrum: Marc Levin from the ideologically conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation and Ana YaƱez Correa of the moderate-left Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, both of whom will be honored this afternoon with a resolution by the Texas House for outstanding contributions to Texas criminal justice policy.

Congrats to you both, mi amigos, the honor is well deserved!

I just received legislative updates from both Marc and Ana, so I thought I'd let them bring you up to speed this morning on the status of criminal justice bills. First, Levin sent out an email update over the weekend providing links to materials distributed at a TPPF capitol briefing last week. Said Marc:
At a Capitol briefing last week, we utilized a model of the criminal justice system we've created as well as projections by the Legislative Budget Board to demonstrate that pending legislation and budget provisions would divert sufficient numbers of offenders to eliminate any need for new prison construction. The budget conference committee is currently determining whether new prisons will be funded.

Many of you have expressed interest in seeing what we presented at this briefing. A four-page handout summarizing our findings is now online here.

This handout highlights the efficacy of alternatives to incarceration for low-risk, nonviolent offenders in reducing recidivism, in addition to the effect on prison capacity.

Also, the Powerpoint we presented entitled "Charting a New Path for Texas Corrections: Modeling the Effect of Alternatives to Incarceration" is available in PDF format here.

This presentation shows the plumbing of the model we created, providing a graphical depiction of how the current criminal justice system works, how some processes would operate differently under pending legislation, and the resulting impact on prison capacity needs.

These documents and the briefing focus in particular on the diversions from prison that would result from Senate Bills 1909 and 838, which relate to drug treatment and parole intermediate sanctions respectively, in conjunction with the proposed budget strategies to expand diversion capacity. These bills have passed the Senate and are pending in the House.

We are privileged that House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden, the House sponsor of these two bills as well as significant other criminal justice reform legislation, and Senator Rodney Ellis, the lead sponsor of SB1909, attended the briefing along with legislative staff and other stakeholders.

Austin American-Statesman reporter Mike Ward, who has published numerous informative stories on adult and juvenile criminal justice issues, also covered the briefing here.
Similarly, Ana Correa's Texas Criminal Justice Coalition issued their own email update this weekend
There is a historical shift from "tough on crime" to "smart on crime" policies going on at our Legislature. The question is, should we build new prisons, or should we address Texas' urgent matters right now?

Listen to Speaker Pro-temp Sylvester Turner's compelling argument on why the State doesn't need to construct new prisons to address its criminal justice needs.

Listen to the Appropriations Conference Committee hearing here , which took place May 11, 2007, at 10:00 am. This is an important issue that impacts all Texans in ways they may not realize.

The House and Senate Remain at Odds on Prison Construction.

View House and Senate Differences on Appropriations Bill HB 1
Because the House and Senate versions of the biennial budget differ, a conference committee has been formed to develop an agreement on the final state budget. Within the next two weeks the Appropriations Conference Committee will be deciding which road Texas will take: the road that will save the State millions of dollars, strengthen families, and increase public safety, or the road that will waste funding we can use for healthcare, education, and utilities for those in need.

The House budget includes NO funding for new prisons and instead allocates funds for treatment. The Senate budget funds both treatment AND the construction of three prisons. These prisons would have a General Obligation bond cost of $233.4 million and a bond debt service General Revenue cost for the biennium of $34.5 million. According to the Sunset Advisory Commission, these three new prisons will cost $34.5 million per year in debt service and another $72 million per year in staffing and operations costs.

Call the members of the Conference Committee and tell them to say, "NO to new prisons!" and "YES to Responsible Funding for Treatment and Diversion Initiatives!"

The Conference Committee members are:

We must make sure that the conference committee approves the House approach, which promotes smart on crime policies that work!

* Please call Speaker Craddick and thank him for continuing to support smart spending: 512-463-1000

* Please call Lt. Governor Dewhurst and urge him to prevent unnecessary prison construction: 512-463-0001

* Also, be sure to thank Speaker Pro Temp Turner for standing firm during the Appropriations Conference Committee hearing and telling the members that new prison construction is unnecessary and wasteful!

View in-depth media coverage of existing problems with Texas' prison system.

View the status of TCJC's key bills that take the need away from building new prisons.

What are Others Saying?


don said...

The diversion into new programs instead of prison is great, but there are not enough counselors and other professionals to staff these programs. Nobody addresses that little tidbit, but it is reality, just the same.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of professionals as long as they're paid for their work!

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous, there are plenty of professionals who would love to do the job, but not for free.

There are many who graduate and are unable to find jobs. If you pay them they will come. This would be the type of challenge they would love and many studied for this type of work but the State decided to do away with helping those who need the help and went to "lockem up and throw away the key" in the late '90's. Now wonder whose idea that was?

Now is the time for the Legislators do the job they were sent to do and not what Gov. 39% wants done, this is not his State only to do whatever he wants with.