Friday, January 23, 2009

Proposed Michigan model would reduce Texas' incarceration costs

I'm on my way to Big D for a meeting and an overnight stay, and likely won't be posting again until the weekend. But I wanted to refer readers to this post from Doc Berman about a sentencing proposal in Michigan to save money on incarceration costs:
The State of Michigan could save $262 million in prison costs by 2015 by bringing parole policies in line with other states – and releasing thousands of prisoners earlier – according to a yearlong analysis of crime and punishment conducted by national policy center. ...

The key recommendation, to require most prisoners to be released after serving 120% of their minimum sentence, was endorsed by Republican and Democratic lawmakers and representatives of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who have been working with the center on the analysis.
Such a change would have a huge impact on Texas' prison population if implemented here, particularly since fully 2/3 of TDCJ inmates are parole eligible.

Use this post as an open thread to discuss whether its time for Texas to reduce inmate populations so the state can afford to adequately pay guards and safely staff prison facilities, as well as pros and cons of the Michigan approach in Texas.


Anonymous said...

Hey Grits could you explain this 120% of their minimum sentence? How is that going to be determined?

Anonymous said...

1:16 anon:

It would mainly depend upon what legislature that the offender was sentenced under as time requirements have changed over the years.

I do have to wonder if they mean 120% day for day time served.

Don Dickson said...

Releasing all these felons and misdemeanants may have a noble underlying purpose, and it may even be a good idea. But sheesh, you think closing Guantanamo is complicated, wait'll you see this. I mean, it's not like these hundreds of thousands of criminals will return to their loving families and the jobs they held before they got hooked on alcohol or drugs or became psychotic. In this economy people with NO criminal history are finding it hard enough to secure housing and employment.

In the long run it may not save us a penny.

And if past history is any predictor of future results, half or more are likely to recidivate.

Anonymous said...

"And if past history is any predictor of future results, half or more are likely to recidivate."

You mean past behavior is indicative of future behavior?

On another subject, Dallas County announced today it is starting to block vehicle registrations for ticket scofflaws.

The news article stated in part "The counties were required to submit the data to the state in 2006 and 2007 as part of a new state law requiring large counties to generate more revenue by improving collection rates."

And that is "the beef" of this article.

Go to and check the state costs and fees that are assessed with each violation filed in justice of the peace courts.

The state costs and fees, which go directly to the state and not to Dallas County, are often more than the fine, which goes to the county.

Don't forget the legislature is trying to figure how to fix a reported 3.1 billion dollar budget shortfall either.

When will all this madness end?

Anonymous said...

I believe the figure cited in the Detroit Free Press was a reduced Michigan prison population of 4300 by 2015. I don't know how the figures would equate to Texas, but it doesn't sound like a rush to release to me.

The article also stated that the legislature is contemplating the idea because the parole boards have too much discretionary power in parole making decisions. That does sound very familiar.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully this isn't a TYC thread or all we'd hear about is how Texas and Michigan are just too different for this type of analysis.

Apparently Grits' adult corrections readers are governed by rationality.


Rage Judicata said...

Since when is a model from Michigan qualified to talk about these issues? Remember what happened with the beauty queen from Alaska? That was a close call...

Anonymous said...

Time served calculated something like this:2for1 while in county. 1.5 for 1 while TDC. Working=more time than that for 1. Good time..etc. Inmate can get 120% in most cases in just over half time. Would be like returning to mandatory supervised release and "relieving" the parole board of their omnipotance. Parole board interviening some years ago when MSR was changed to parole board hearing was never meant to retain 70-80% of inmates based on parole board members personal opinions. It was meant to stop high risk folks from being released. Not sure what percent of folks were "high risk" for public safety, but parole board now uses "nature of the crime" as a deciding factor. That fact isn't going to change. The parole members were supposed to begin to write specific reasons for denying parole(after last Aprils legislation)because most folks were under the impression that they could do something to increase their chances for parole, and after serving 10 of 15 years with no cases and taking all educational offerred, and working every day and job training, etc, they were declined due to "nature of the crime". They soon after wrote a statement that their coded number risk ranking system was their adherance to that rule. That tool..includes things like "age at first incarceration, nature f the crime, etc" Things the inmate cant change. An inmate can be THE model inmate, and still the parole board says no or yes dependant on how they feel on the day. Owens says she "will never" release an inmate on parole "when a life has been taken". There's a thousand and one ways that can happen. eg.18 y/o drinking and driving home from graduation party, not usually a drinker, wreck, kills someone. 20 years in TDC. At 28, half the sentence would be served, parole hearing number one...chance of parole..slim to none. The inmates will tell you "no one is paroled first time around, I don't care how long you been here" This shouldn't be.

Anonymous said...

Just need to make sure the Jerry "Animal" McFadden's and Kenneth McDuff's of the world stay incarcerated as long as possible, regardless if he is a model inmate or not.

I'm down with non-violent offenders for pasrole.

Anonymous said...

How is the "minimum sentence" calculated? Do they mean parole eligibility?

If the public balks at releasing all felons en masse, then just release felony drug defendants after they serve two weeks in prison.

Why two weeks? By then they've already been replaced on the streets anyway.

Anonymous said...

The document states that the offender "serve no less than 100% of there minimum court-imposed sentence and no more than 120% of that sentence." This would exclude any parole eligibility date sooner than flat-time plus good-time equals 100% of the minimum sentence.

It also is not proposing felons be released en masse. The guidelines would not take effect until 4/2009.

There are exclusions of life sentences and high-risk individuals being placed within this framework.

The numbers for Mich. are 48456 current prison population. The decrease projeced would take place over the next 6 years to 43509. A saving of 90.7 million.

It all sounds reasonable to me.

Don said...

Why would you want to do all this 120% of minimum computation crap? Why not just up the percentage of eligibles that are paroled. BPP can do that anytime they want to. They did it a little when they started catching heat for such a small percentage.

Anonymous said...

Don - This would alleviate the burden of the BPP from having to calculate all those percentages monthly. We know how hard that has been for them.

It would take away the ever elusive factoring in of the dynamic guideline score (behavior while incarcerated.) The BPP also has great deal trouble with this when deciding parole release.

At least this way prisoners would have some real responsibility and accountability in determining their own release. Flat-time plus GOOD-time equals release. That is what I call an incentive.

Anonymous said...

Giving the BPP a free hand to make parole decisons was a huge mistake.

It makes the statement "you'll be eligible for parole in..........." completely meaningless.

Texas needs to make a decision; either they're going to have a parole system or not. The current system is not doing anything to benefit anyone. If the BPP doesn't grant parole, the taxpayers have to continue to pay for prison costs they cannot afford. If the BPP does grant parole, it does nothing to improve the public safety because it is completely arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 3.28 said: An inmate can be THE model inmate, and still the parole board says no or yes dependant on how they feel on the day. Owens says she "will never" release an inmate on parole "when a life has been taken".

Which is exactly the kind of statment by Ms owens that should have her immediately removed from her position because it shows blatent lack of impartiality. It is not her position to make that kind of decision in advance - the law says that inmate is eligible for release, the BPP really need to come up with better reasons for denying the inmate.

And any system that can have something called "Mandatory Discretionary Supervision" really cant be taken seriously.

Here's another option: whatever the Lege decide to do about parole, why not make it retroactive and include every inmate? Start again with a clean slate, and then everyone will know where they stand instead of the incredibly complicated system that currently exists where an inmate can be serving time for 2 or more crimes that carry completely different parole eligibility and time calculations.

Oh, and give everyone the chance to take time off their prison time by awarding credits across the board, and NOT off their parole time. seeing as according to Ms Owens, some wont be getting any parole to use their accumulated good-time on.

Don Dickson said: "And if past history is any predictor of future results, half or more are likely to recidivate."

Only SOME groups of inmates are likely to reoffend at that rate, and those are inmates serving time for offences that everyone seems happy to grant parole to. The group of inmates least likely to reoffend upon release are those convicted of murder, and the second least likely are sex offenders. Even using your logic, past behaviour of murderers is often no worse than any other member of the community. I wish people would remember that the high-profile cases they see on the media are very rare and unusual, and appear in the media for that very reason. Yes there are individuals who are extremely dangerous and should probably never be released, but that is not every inmate serving time for murder.

Anonymous said...

Sunray's wench,
You are right on the money as always. I appreciate your insight .
Helga Dill, Chair,TX CURE

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Don D, Texas' three year recidivism rate is about 28%, not close to half. Also, nearly all of Texas prisoners will get out eventually, so the only way your argument is valid is if you want to build enough lockups to give everybody a life sentence, and we can't pay to house the ones we've got.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Helga. I think I'm in severe danger of becomming an activist whether I want to be one or not!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Oh, and to 4:07 - part of the goal doing something like this is to make sure they have ROOM for the Kenneth McDuffs of the world. When we're filling up prisons with petty, offenders, it forces them to release dangerous ones earlier.

Anonymous said...

Don Dixon asks good questions and makes pertinent points to which no one really responds. Is this all because of economics and have little to do with public safety? On this blog, we rarely see anyone write about public safety, its always about economics, emptying the prisons, prisoner families, "treatment," yada, yada, yada.

Do you "reformers" EVER entertain the thought that the law abiding citizens of this state deserve to be protected from the criminal class?

I don't have all the answers but I don't think you "reformers' do either.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 8:29 - I DID respond to Don Dixon. I corrected his overstated recidivism statistic and pointed out that his critique (about lack of reentry services) applies equally to the status quo.

Texas releases tens of thousands of prisoners every year and I don't hear the state troopers association calling stridently for help getting them jobs.

It's also complete BS to say that on Grits "we rarely see anyone write about public safety." Search on that term and you'll find it discussed on this blog near constantly. How does it make us safer to release dangerous offenders to make room for nonviolent ones, which is what we're doing now? Wouldn't it be better to make informed choices about who to incarcerate? I'd rather pick the less dangerous categories of offenses for early release.

And finally, yes, it is about the money, except you fail to acknowledge how money affects safety. If TDCJ can't hire guards to safely staff prisons, people - both guards and prisoners - are going to get hurt. Physically hurt or killed. It's already happened. So if the state won't pay to run prisons safely, the other option is to reduce the inmate population.

What other choices are there besides putting your staff at risk? They're already voting with their feet, and soon enough attitudes like yours with result in TDCJ not being able to hire enough guards at all, and at that point the releases really will happen unplanned and en masse.

The other option is spend the extra $1.2 billion they've asked for and raise your taxes. That would work, too.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to understand, WHY, when a inmate is given "good time" for that person to have to sign a paper saying, he/she gives up the "good time" to be paroled, if one does NOT sign that paper, they are not paroled. How on earth can this even be legal- -one hand is saying, you can't get paroled if you don't have good time, other is saying, well now that you are being paroled, - -"give it back, it means nothing." To ME, this is absolutely illegal for the state to even offer good time when they take it away, they are basically, and no other way to put it, lying in their own contract of rules.
Give the inmates what they say they have earned! if they have (example) five years good time, give them five years off their time when paroled- -not a master mind situation to do.
The parole board is way to hypocritical, they never account to anyone and the public, the inmates have NO clue as to what they can do. They NEED to have rules to go by- -right now, it's a damn free for all- -my tax dollors pay for a board that won't answer questions, that doesn't have to account to anyone, and retracks their own rules of good time.
why are they even being allowed to do so????
The Texas parole board is a absolute joke- -if the wind is blowing the right why, they MIGHT parole John Doe- -what a way to have such an important service- -no rules, just moods. Total disgrace in Texas. Give them credit for good time, in other words, the parole board needs to follow their OWN rules they have set up in the first place--real hard.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 8.29 said: "Do you "reformers" EVER entertain the thought that the law abiding citizens of this state deserve to be protected from the criminal class?"

You imply that to be a 'reformer' is to be outside of 'the law abiding citizens', by separating the two groups. Do you believe that 'reformers' are NOT law abiding citizens?

If you would care to define the perimeters of your 'criminal class' as you see it within America (which I was lead to believe was a classless society), we might be able to discuss it.

I suggest that it is possible to be a 'reformer' and a law abiding citizen, as well as a tax payer, and by relationship of blood or marriage, a member of a criminal class, all at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to see this subject brought to the attention of readers.

The BPP serves no purpose!! Ms Owens serves no purpose, and if the truth were known, she has no idea what goes on in her own department. She needs to go along with the BPP out the door!!

Good time and work time never should have been taken away. The incentive to try to better one's self is taken away when realized all the work time and good time goes for nothing. Whoever decided this should get in line behind Ms Owens and the BPP and march hurriedly out the door.

There are many who do not deserve to be in prison but for the lies told by witnesses rehearsed by the ADAs to just win a case and move their careers further with no thoughts of right and wrong at all. In fact, the entire system is sick and needs to be fed a dose of castor oil and cleaned out.

Start with Ms Owens and her group of puppets who know nothing about what they are doing and get this right, good time and work time are worth the time!!

Anonymous said...

Scott ~ did you ever get an answer to requesting Ms Owens respond to some of the questions we all put forward last year?

Anonymous said...

Sunray's wench,
we would welcome someone with your insight in our ranks. Being an activist is a good thing but also frustrating as h... in Texas.
Helga Dill, Chair, TX CURE

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, who is going to hire them?

Employment is a condition of probation in many cases, so it's back to the pen again, my friend.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:38 - "Hahaha, who is going to hire them?"

Could be the same place that would hire an idiot like yourself. Scary thought, huh?

Anonymous said...

To the person who made the remark about "criminal class". If we were to investigate and prosecute all crimes as aggressively as we do drug crimes we would find that criminal behavior occurs probably about equally in all classes of society. In my work I've seen a lot white collar crime. Much of what got us into our current mortgage crisis was white collar criminal behavior aka "fraud". Most white collar crime goes uninvestigated and unprosecuted. If we investigated and prosecuted white collar crime the way we do drug crimes we would have as many or more people from the upper and middle classes of society in prison as we currently have from the lower socioeconomic levels. But it is the upper and middle class that have the political power. Therefore, the criminal justice system becomes a tool to oppress the lower class by selectively investigating and prosecuting only those crimes committed by the lower socioeconomic classes who lack political influence and power. The comment about "criminal class" reaks of arrogance and ignorance.

I kind of like the way Mark Twain put it: "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is not distinctly native American criminal class except Congress".

Anonymous said...

120% rule is a bad ideal. Prison conduct should be the biggest factor to parole, this is usually a good indicator on how the offender will act in the free world.

I think the state needs to take a harder look at the inmate population over 55 years old. Most of these offenders are the least likely to re-offend. The older inmate population is costing the state billions in health care $$$$$$$$$. With the savings from parole TDCJ can hire better quality officers and actually check their backgrounds, so they are not hiring idiots who will bring in phones to death row inmates.