Friday, August 22, 2008

Texas Criminal Justice By the Numbers

Just a few bits of telling data about Texas' criminal justice system compiled from prior Grits posts:

Proportion of Texas adults under control of the criminal justice system (in prison, jail, on probation or on parole): 1 in 21

Increase in Texas' overall population 1978-2004: 67%

Increase in Texas' prison population 1978-2004: 573%

Number of felonies on the books in Texas: 2,324

Number of Texas felonies involving oysters: 11

Percentage of TDCJ inmates convicted of drug offenses: 19.6%

Drug offenders as a percentage of total probation revocations: 37%

Percentage of state jail inmates incarcerated for less than a gram drug offenses convicted in Harris County: 50%

Percentage of Texas population in Harris County: 17%

Percentage of TDCJ pharmacy budget spent on HIV drugs: 48%

Percentage of Texas prison inmates who were clients of the indigent mental health system on the outside: 30%

Percentage of TDCJ inmates eligible for parole 66%

Texas prison staffing positions vacant: 3,040

Number of TDCJ staff fired for disciplinary infractions in FY 2007: 538

TDCJ prison guard pay ranked by state: 47th

Proposed TDCJ budget increase next biennium for the same prison population: 10.5%

Percentage of Texas drivers with no auto insurance: 25.5%

Proportion of drivers sentenced to pay "driver responsibility" fees who become scofflaws: 70%

Percentage of Texas adults with outstanding arrest warrants: More than 10%

Number of exonerations in Texas based on DNA since 2001: 34

Percentage of Texas cases solved by DNA resulting in exonerations: 3.3%

Percentage of Texas DNA exonerations where wrongful conviction was caused by a faulty eyewitness: 82%

Number of prisoners entering TDCJ for homicide in 2007: 849

Number of new TDCJ inmates in 2007 sentenced to death: 14


Anonymous said...

Do we need any more proof that Texas is really just another third world country?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Please! No Third World country can afford incarceration rates that high.

Mass incarceration is a rich nation's hobby.

Anonymous said...

1 in 21, that's amazingly high! I wonder what the figures are in the Smith county Gulag...

Anonymous said...

The message to each person cought up in the judicial system is "You are not alone".

The message to each person not cought up in the judicial system is "You could be next".

Thanks for this post. It provides data to confront tough on crime proponents that don't want to know the truth.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows what the problem is, noone knows what the solution is.

How dare we hold people accountable for their actions?

As someone who works in the probation field, I promise you, probationers are given countless chances before they are incarcerated. I am sure you can give me examples where that is not the case; however, the majority of probationers have refused to comply with the orders of the Court and therefore get locked up.

You can't Court Order change!! We talk about treatment and rehabilitation as though everyone wants help. What do you do with a drug offender that refuses to follow the Court's order and will not attend counseling?

Anonymous said...

"You can't Court Order change!!"

You can court order it, but that doesn't mean that change will happen. I have seen a lot of cases where a probationer was given no second chances, was "violated" for technical reasons. The fact is, that most of these cases stem from conviction for something that should not be considered crime to begin with. That is what the problem is!

Anonymous said...

"noone knows what the solution is."

Just a follow up: The solution is: Stop arresting and incarcerating people for things that should not be crimes to begin with!

Anonymous said...

Things that should not be crimes?

For example??

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that crime is a billion dollar business on both sides of the law. There is no chance for change when criminals, Lawyers, Security personell, bondsman...ect have figured the system out just enough to turn a profit.
Less strict laws mean fewer caught criminals to pay for all those in business to make money from crime, except the criminal who're then making more money.
If you're one of those that what to lessen the laws then you must be 1 of the 21 or next.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for the guards. At least 34 convicts got out of the joint scot-free because of DNA testing, but out of the 538 guards fired for disciplinary reasons, none were exonerated. Where the hell is their union!!! With over 3000 vacant guard positions, is there any wonder why the inmates are running the asylum?

Crusty said...

Any idea what the total percentage of Texans who will ever be incarcerated in their life is?

Anonymous said...

Well ---- about 50% of the population is men and most under control of the state are men. That means 10% of the men are under the control of the state as we speak.

I'd guess that half of all men in Texas have had to deal with the control or the State at some point in their life.

That leads me to two conclusions:

1) There are far too many activities that are considered crimes.

2) Given that not all criminal activities are prosecuted, most Texas men ignore the law and get away with it.

Final conclusion - the justice system is dysfunctional. What a waste of money and lives!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The cheapest and most effective solution would be to just execute all repeat felony offenders. If you get convicted once it might have been a mistake but that lightning don't strike twice.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Why bother to write such gibberish 2:39? Didn't you notice only 14 were sent to death row out of nearly 849 murderers? The idea it's possible or desirable to execute tens of thousands of people per year is ridiculous. No wonder fools who advocate such things always do so anonymously.

Anonymous said...

It works for China. They don't bother with appeals.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So now we take our cues from a Communist totalitarian dictatorship?!


W W Woodward said...

Too dam'n many laws passed as a result of knee jerk reaction by the legislature. Too many laws passed as results of lobbying by special interest groups. Too many laws passed so someone can feel good about "doing something" about a presumed problem. Too many laws passed as a result of attempting to regulate morals. Too many laws passed as a result of media blitzes about particular problems that may not actually be a problem.

War on Drugs. War on domestic abuse. War on DWI. War on ... you name it. Some one is always ready to go to war about something he finds offensive and manages to find a sufficient number of other idiots to agree with him.

If the legislature isn't passing cockamamie, draconian laws, every legislative session, bureaucrats in all the state agencies and commissions are passing cockamamie, draconian rules every week that have the effect of laws. Take a look at the Texas Register every Friday afternoon.)

A citizen of the Grand State of Texas cannot make it through a 24 hour day without getting crosswise with at least one regulation that will get him fined or incarcerated if he happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when he commits the "nefarious" act.

I'm surprised that the incarceration rate is only 1 in 21. When I was sheriffing back in the early eighties over 10% of the population of my county was booked into my little 5 inmate jail over a period of a year. If I remember correctly the population of the county was about 2500. Of course, not all the inmates were county residents. Some were out of town yahoos.

Anonymous said...

A perfect example of why the Criminal Justice System in Texas is a tremendous failure, look at the problems existing at the Bexar County Adult Probation Dept.
The current director, William Bill Fitzgerald has 4 pending lawsuits filed against him. All the lawsuits involve violations of various CIVIL RIGHTS of TWO of it's formerly Wrongfully Terminated Adult Probation officers and some current still employed employees. The two Wrongfully Terminated Adult Probation Officers were doing their jobs (Protecting society and innocent defendants) as they were hired to do, yet they were both denied their basic Due Process Rights guaranteed by both the Texas and U.S. Constitution. They were treated worse than the CRIMINALS they were supervising. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
I ask all Grits readers to read all past posted stories and comments relating to the Bexar County Adult Probation Department within the past two years.
A newspaper publication called San Antonio CURRENT ( which is published weekly ran the following AD dated August 20-26, 2008.




Adult Probation Department, Chief William Fitzgerald needs to be removed.

This is an appeal to our Bexar County citizens to call or write your 11 Criminal Court Judges located at the Justice Center at 300 Dolorosa Street, San Antonio, Texas 78205.

175th DISTRICT COURT (210) 335-2527 JUDGE ROMAN
227th DISTRICT COURT (210) 335-2304 JUDGE KAZEN
186th DISTRICT COURT (210) 335-2505 JUDGE HERR
144th DISTRICT COURT (210) 335-2511 JUDGE STAHL
226th DISTRICT COURT (210) 335-2446 JUDGE HARLE
290th DISTRICT COURT (210) 335-2696 JUDGE MACRAE

Today our judges remain silent while our citizens and probation officers struggle for justice. We seek one leader among these judges to bring all judges together for a special meeting. A call for the removal of the Adult Probation Department Chief William Fitzgerald and Administrators.


Intimidation, threats of losing jobs, union busting, taxpayer funds wasted on lawsuits from civil rights violations.

Excuses for low salaries, high caseloads, extreme turnovers, low morale, disregard for public safety.

Contracted drug testing lab that caused the arrest of innocent defendant!

We say rescind the firing of our association president for speaking up!

We say to our judges it is time to ask questions and remove this administration!




It is sad when any newspaper publication whether small or big in the size of a city such as SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS runs an AD asking for the removal of it's ADULT PROBATION DIRECTOR.


Taxpayers not only suffer in the end, but their financial burdens are paid with their children's BLOOD.


Anonymous said...

Probation is a conditional CONTRACT between the individual and the Court. When the individual DECIDES he doesn't WANT to abide by the agreement, it is HIS decision that ultimately sends him to prison.
You can sugar coat it any way you want, but the FACTS are that MOST revocations could be avoided by the probationer being responsible for HIS/HER choice of illegal behavior and/or violations of the agreement (aka:conditions of probation) .
I made bad choices as an 18 year old and received a conditional discharge for delivery of methamphetamines. I CHOSE NOT TO VIOLATE my conditions and later received a Governors pardon and ultimately an expungement. I've been a probation officer for over 20 years and am still amazed at all those who try to beat the system and then whine like children over and over at the NUMEROUS revocation hearings before they are ever REVOKED.
Don't try to explain to me why the prisons are overcrowded UNLESS you're going to address the "Lack of responsibility" by so many in this country!!

Anonymous said...

Don't look now, but the guy who presided over the TDCJ board for all those years is now chairing the board that oversees the DPS.

Be very afraid.

Anonymous said...

"How dare we hold people accountable for their actions?"

I don't think you get it. Texas does an amazing job of holding people accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, too many actions are deemed to require incarceration by the state. In fact Texas does such a good job holding the people accountable for their actions but cannot hold themselves accountable to staff facilities. If you are 3000 guards short, maybe you need to let some people go. If 66 percent of the people in prison are eligible for parole, maybe you should parole some. Maybe you should have focused on putting some of this incarceration money into rehabilitation money a long time ago, not just recently. Texas will pay for its lock em up and forget about em, and make sure you kill the ones you can't forget about mentality.


Anonymous said...

Criminalization and incarceration are by definition societal and cultural issues, not simply issues of personal responsibility.

If you are going to take someone's freedom what are you going to do with that person while they are incarcerated. Just leave them, forget about them? They are going to get back out.

Just like those who are on probation. If we have identified someone as having an issue causing them to violate the law, what do we do to them? Tell them they have been naughty and that they better stop? Should we not have levels of intervention? Should we not have mandatory residential drug treatment programs in the offenders community, which allows them to continue working, have contact with their family, but requires daily accountability for an extended period of time, while participating in treatment, to allow them the opportunity to overcome their drug problem?

Anonymous said...

It takes a lot of determination to get yourself revoked on probation... they never revoke you on the first technical violation unless it is a lifetime achievment award.

Anonymous said...

Nah... not so poopyhead. All it takes in Potter and Randall Counties' is to not pay your probation fees. Often times, probation is all about the money. For the main,probation officers have become bill collectors.

Anonymous said...

House Bill 1326:

I ask all of you to read the History of this Bill. How and Why is was created. No consideration for probation officers input was ever asked.

Because of HB-1326, all probation directors in the state of Texas can and have run their departments anyway they want without having to answer to anyone & probation officers have no right to appeal an adverse action taken against them by their director.


Governor PERRY and the
the State LEGISLATURE (House & Senate) SCREWED

Anonymous said...

While i do feel 10:51:00 AM has some valid points, many times his point just isn't true. I have always been amazed how different probation violations are handled differently. Many times I have seen probationers whom have violated multiple times get nothing more than a slap on the hand and reinstated. Then there seem to be just as many whom are thrown to the wolves after one violation, and i am sure most of the violations are purely technical. I am aware that the probation officers have nothing to do with the long terms of felony supervision in Texas. But it would be very helpful if max felony supervision sentences were to be greatly shortened. At the least this would greatly decrease caseload, thus saving quite a lot of money to the county tax payers.

Anonymous said...

A good example how some courts in Texas are corrupt and mismanaged.

GRITS readers go to Links & Such:

Click on Hearsay (Bexar Courts)

Read Elizabeth Allen: County Court 7 and theories of Government.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth, does Texas have so many going BACK to prison? Probably because Texas is so darn hypocritical! Yes, hypocritical- -when a person DOES the time, and they are OFF paper- -why the heck are they still called a FELON?
The whole system of prison is "to pay back society"- -but yet they are STILL treated as a "big time felon" and they (society) NEVER, EVER let them "pay back"- -how the heck can a person get a job and support their families if this stupid society is so ignorant?
When OFF paper, they should NOT be consisdered a felon!!!! They are done, over with, the end!
Change the way society is so darn ignorant, and you will see that people do NOT go back to prison, in other words, Texas needs to grow up!
NO more "ex-felon" in our vocabulary!! Stop being so rightess and just use your brain God gave us, this isn't hard, even our governor MIGHT understand this- - maybe.
Stay with WHY prisons were even started- -Texas has made up their own mess because they flat do not care to go by ANY rules that are supposed to be followed in the first place.
END "EX-felons"!!
Be safe.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth, does Texas have so many going BACK to prison?

Prolly 'cause they turn 'em loose too soon 'fore they learnt the lesson.

Anonymous said...

I would guess about 85 to 90 percent of all people in jail, or on probation,and have felonies are men. Thats a lot of men who can't vote and may never be able to vote again. That must be one of the reasons women are gradually taking over state and locale governments. Maybe this is part of the War on Men.
I guess thats not a pollitically correct thought. I'll have to retrain myself.

Anonymous said...

Collecting fees was the first priority of a probation officer in the early 80's. The very first question a PO was asked by the CJ administrators was, "Has he been paying his fees?".

Times are better now; you are required to have a degree to be the bill collector (The pay is about the same as far as what you can buy).

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Jean Karlo Ponzanelli, age 19 will soon be transferred from Williamson County Jail to the Huntsville Correctional Facility. Jean's crime: When he was 17 he had consensual sex with a girl he believed to be 15; she was 13. Jean was charged initially with agg. sexual assault of a child. This "child" is responsible for at least one other boy being in jail and possibly another. Jean waived his right to be indicted by a Grand Jury, and was convinced to take Prosecutor Phil Grant's offer of a plea to "attempted sexual assault." Jean was given deferred adjudication, and was placed on probation which included compliance with the sex offenders registry. As a result of all of this, Jean was made to quit school in January 2007, which was the beginning of Jean's second semester as a senior. Jean is now a high school dropout. Jean did not last long on probation. Sure he was given a chance, but the terms of probation for those on deferred adjudication are unrealistic. Jean was a 17 year old kid when he was arrested on Jan.22, 2007. He turned 18 in jail on April 10, 2007, and signed his plea on May 1, 2007 (20 days after his 18th birthdate.) Jean was told if he didn't take the plea he could get 30 years in maximum security. What would you choose? Jean took the plea without fulling understanding the burden the terms of probation would place on him.

Jean was out of jail for two months when he was told that he had to move from his mom's home because it was too close to a park. Jean worked at a fast food restaurant, didn't have a car, had tons of fines, fees, psych stuff, classes,community service etc. He had little support. He relied on friends and his skateboard to get to where he needed to be. He didn't make probation.

Judge Carnes of District Court 368 revoked Jean's probation on July 30,2008 and sentenced Jean to 3 years of probation.

Jean is one of MANY boys throughout Texas who are being sent to PRISON anywhere from 3 to 40 years. Jean was lucky to only have gotten 3. Seriously, consensual sex. A mom finds out her 15 year old daughter is having sex with her 19 year old boyfriend. Mom knows daughter is dating 19 year old but gets upset when she finds out her daughter is having sex with him. . Mom calls cops, cops ask questions,kids answer honestly, boom boy in jail and ends up a registered sex offender -- for life. Most of these boys take pleas similar to Jean's. Many,just like Jean, don't make it.

These boys are not dangerous predators, and do not pose a threat to society. We are destroying lives by doing this, and we are filling our prisons up with kids that DONT belong there.

Texas Voices

Anonymous said...

Jan: What is your suggestion to preclude a 17 year old from having sex with a 13 year old? Should we go after the parents of the 13 year old for allowing the daughter to date and forget about the young 17 year old "adult"?

Now is the time when you remind me that according to the law he was a "child" when the act was committed. True. And the law forbids having sex with a 13 year old.

Life is not the fantasy world a lot of folks want to believe it is.

Retied 2004

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous who posted at 8:17 a.m. on 8/26/08.


I in no way condone this behavior, but I strongly believe that criminalizing such behavior is MISSING THE MARK.

The question isn't what to do to preclude the 17 year old from having sex with a 13 year old since if a 13 year old has sex with a 14 year old, the 14 year old will most likely be faced with the same consequences (That is a fact based off current law and the information from the Registry) The question is should these cases be treated differently than the case of the 54 year old man with a history of raping or fondling 13 year old girls and even younger?

What is being accomplished by sending these boys/young adults to prison? Can you honestly not differentiate between these kids/young adults and a dangerous pedophile or rapist? I believe most people can differentiate, and it is time for the law to also.

Do you know that a 12 year old can walk into a Planned Parenthood facility and obtain birth control without parental consent? Without an ID?

Should we be holding 13, 14, 15, and 16 year olds accountable when they willingly engage in UNDERAGE sex, and lie about their age in order to do so, or deny the older person a defense, send them to jail and label them a felon, sex offender. If an underage kid drinks or smokes, and gets caught, they are held accountable. If a 13 year old carries a gun to school and shoots someone, they are held responsible.

We can hold a 10 year old accountable for inappropriate sexual behavior how is we don't hold the 13, 14, 15, 16 year old kids accountable for willingly engaging in sex with an older person? No, I don't believe any of these kids should be thrown into prison either.

You may already be aware that two 13 year olds engaging in sex with each other can be punished under these laws as well. We do have kids on the registry who were 9, 10, 11 and older. The victims can be same age or as little as 1 year younger. Some of these kids have spent time in TYC and/or will end up in TDC at a later point when they "fail to comply with the sex offender registry." (Familiarize yourself with these requirements. They are the same for a violent rapist or pedophile who is out on parole.)

It seems more feasible to require parenting classes, mechanical babies, health classes as a term of probation for a "minor" and the "young adult" engaging in sex which should be a MISDEMEANOR and not a FELONY. The classes required of convicted rapists and pedophiles are not even coming close to the issue of consensual sex among "young adult" teenagers and younger teenagers.

Bottom line the law needs to be reformed. This law is one of the few "strict liability" laws. There is no defense except age. There must be no more that a 3 year age difference, and the younger party can be no younger that 14 (that's Texas law) Federal law states there can be no more than 4 years age difference and the younger party no younger than 13. Under Federal law, Jean did not commit a crime.

I would also like to emphasize EDUCATION!! Educate the parents/kids/public of the law. Educate parents on teenage sexuality, and of their legal responsibility to their child up until that "minor" or "child" is age 18.

I am being realistic. Everytime my DA asks for the citizens of my county to write a letter to the parole board asking they deny the release of a violent sexual predator, I am reminded that it is probably necessary to release this predator to make room for boys ("young adults") like Jean.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add that the following comment was left on a petition started on Jean's behalf:
"I have talked to this "girl" and I personally know her. Not to long ago did she admitt to me that she completly lied to his face. I am a girl myself and this should be a discrase to her. She is now only 15 and is still going to partys, getting high, and drinking. I honestly hope that EVERYONE will realize that it takes two, not one or the other. And I hope that in hearing this, EVERYONE will think again. Averi(: PS. i dont know jean but i pray for him"

Anonymous said...

Jan: I know you mean well. Having worked in various positions in the criminal justice field at local, state, and federal levels for over 43 years, I have a different opinion than you.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

How dare you cast blame on the victim by implicitly calling her a slut?!

Jean raped a child. He is lucky that girl's father didn't kill him. He can rot in prision for all I care.

Anonymous said...

Bud, check again, no one on here referred to this girl as a slut.

Jean was 17 when this occurred, the girl was 2 weeks away from her 14th birthdate and was a willing participant.

Her father, who I believe was 5 years older than her mother when the girl's mother became pregnant with her, and I believe her mother was a teenager when she became pregnant, is lucky to not be sitting in Huntsville now.

If it is true (as I believe) the girl has been a "victim" 3 times for the same crime, the mother is lucky she has not had charges filed against her by Child Protective Services since she was aware her daughter was lying about her age, going to parties with older boys, and even recently allowed the younger daughter to have a myspace account claiming to be 15 (the younger daughter is presently 13)

Bud, if you cannot differentiate between a 17 year old having sex with a girl he believed to be 15, and a 50 year old who KNEW the 8 year old girl and her age, I understand your position and I understand you feel ALMOST as strongly as I do on this issue. We just have very different opinions and neither of us will change the other.

I have personally known people who were molested by adults when they were children, it isn't the same as a teenager willingly engaging in sex with an older teenager.

Bud, I am sorry, but we will just have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Bud, I apologize, you asked: How dare you cast blame on the victim by implicitly calling her a slut?! You didn't really accuse anyone of outright calling this "victim" a slut.

I think what happened here was that you interpreted the facts/truth about this girl and came to your own conclusion. The facts and the truth were not meant to imply anything other than the this girl was old enough to know EXACTLY what she was doing, and had done it before, and is still doing it. You should take a look at what she does online. Outrageous.

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