Friday, April 02, 2010

Largest Texas counties now receive more inmates from TDCJ than they send

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's new annual statistical report (pdf) is out and Melody McDonald at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an overview with some of the highlights.

Here are a few items I noticed that she didn't mention:

Importantly, the largest counties appear to have reached a tipping point (as a result of shipping so many people off to prison over the years) and now receive more inmates back into their communities than they send to TDCJ: Harris County sent 14,943 people to TDCJ in 2009, and saw 15,287 come back. Dallas sent 7,383 people to prison and saw 7,432 return.

Overall, though, the trend is headed in the opposite direction after a 2008 dip in inmate numbers; TDCJ received 520 more prisoners in FY 2009 than it released.

Keeping prisons full is for the most part a choice by the Board of Pardons and Paroles: 64% of inmates in TDCJ's institutional division are eligible for parole - more than 88,000 people.

TDCJ inmates released in 2009 (excluding those in state jail, who serve their time day for day) overall served an average of 59.8% of their sentences before the parole board lets them out. Drug offenders on average served 46.1% of their sentences, compared to 56.6% for property crimes and 78.9% for violent offenders.

Drug offenders make up just 16.5% of TDCJ inmates overall but 33.6% of new "receives," or incoming inmates, and 36.5% of parole revocations. Three out of four inmates entering TDCJ on drug charges (75.5%) were sentenced for possession only. Of drug offenders sent to state jail, 88.3% were for possession only - mostly for possessing less than a gram of a controlled substance.

885 people went to prison in FY 2009 for sex offender registration violations.

Texas sent 5,128 people to prison in FY 2009 for DWI. These are people with 3 DWI convictions or more.

As was emphasized at a recent House Corrections Committee meeting, Harris County is underutilizing SAFP beds, sentencing eligible drug offenders to incarceration instead of treatment. TDCJ had 773 SAFP placements from Dallas in 2009, just 391 from much-larger Harris County, and 217, 164, and 145, respectively, from Tarrant, Bexar and Travis counties. Harris County's underutilization partially explains why TDCJ presently has unused SAFP beds it recently suggested might be part of budget cuts.

A total of 7,337 people during FY 2009 entered TDCJ with sentences longer than 10 years. Seventy-seven new receives were sentenced to Life Without Parole; ten new residents were added to death row.

Here's a county-by county breakdown of TDCJ inmates received, including those sent to state jail and SAFP:
Harris: 14,943
Dallas: 7,383
Tarrant: 5,183
Bexar: 4,809
Travis: 2,679
Collin: 797
Hidalgo: 1,927
El Paso: 1,206
Denton: 883
Fort Bend: 528
Montgomery: 803
Williamson: 764
Cameron: 721
Nueces: 1,770
Brazoria: 616
Galveston: 848
Bell: 844
Lubbock: 972
Webb: 159
Jefferson: 1,138
All others: 23,765
Clearly the big counties account for most TDCJ inmates, but that "all others" figure is pretty impressive considering those are the least populated areas of the state.

These are just a few things that jumped out at me. There's lots more detail in the full report (pdf).

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