Friday, February 08, 2008

Fabelo: Texas jail growth outstripping prisons

Dr. Tony Fabelo, Texas' premier criminal justice statistician, has been a busy man lately, including serving yesterday as the featured speaker at the Bexar County jail overcrowding symposium. He's put a copy of his presentation online, entitled Managing Jail Population Growth in Texas: The State and Local Challenges.

A few highlights:

Between 2000 and 2007, Texas rate of incarceration in prisons actually declined by 9.4%, while the rate of people incarcerated in county jails rose by 4.3%. (Slide 19) This was a period of major population growth and declining crime, so for jails' rate to continue to rise over that period is pretty significant.

Incarceration rates in the largest counties over the same period varied widely, indicating that the actions of local decisionmakers accounted for much of the variation in outcomes. Here are the changes in jail incarceration rates between 2000-2007 for Texas' five largest counties (Slide 20):
  • Harris: 15.72%
  • Dallas: -13.46%
  • Tarrant: -6.02%
  • Bexar: 7.54%
  • Travis: -15.08%
Fabelo corroborated my assessment earlier in the day that pretrial detention is driving county jail growth. While overall jail population increased 18.6% between 2000-2007, he said, the number of pretrial detainees increased 49.2% over the same period. (Slide 21)

He pointed out that more than 13,000 jail beds are either currently planned or under construction, but said he didn't see the need for them based on crime patterns. (Slide 27)

See his whole presentation, the first part of which included a summary of legislative actions in 2007 that affected jail crowding. Also check out more of Fabelo's Texas' related research at the Justice Center website of the Council of State Governments.

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