Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tribune Prison App 1.1

The Texas Tribune updated their Texas Prisons app, mentioned earlier here. According to Matt Stiles:

We've received much feedback from readers about our Texas prisons database, which has detailed records about inmates, their crimes and the units where they're serving sentences.

Among the ideas was to add more information about where inmates lived before prison and where the crimes were committed. We now have that functionality.

In the app, each of Texas' 254 counties has a landing page that includes a list of inmates as well as visualizations of the ethnicity and gender of the inmates. There's also a bar chart that shows the distribution of sentence lengths.

Here's the page for the state's most populous county, Harris.
Tribune publisher Evan Smith noted recently that fully 1/3 of the Tribune's traffic goes to database applications like this one, so it sounds like Matt Stiles is earning his keep.

Here's the page with county by county stats. Matt asked for more suggestions on useful data to gather and publish, so be sure to offer them here if you have any.


sunray's wench said...

I am strongly against adding things like where the inmate lived before they were convicted. Inmates do not exist in a vaccuum. They usually have families who get left behind and this kind of "public service" enables bullying and victimisation of the families. It also leaves the way open for cases of mistaken identity, where completely unrelated families are targeted by vigilates because of a particular crime committed by someone with the same name.

A little information is a dangerous thing - and what purpose exactly does any of it serve? If the inmates are locked up, who really cares where they used to live?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, you probably care if you're planning for providing reentry services, for example, or if one is concerned over electoral skewing of the population in legislative districts. I agree putting a home address would be counterproductive, but you could do it by zip code or census tract and avoid those problems.

Anonymous said...

Sunray's wench I totally agree with you. Yes, we plan to provide re-entry services for our loved one, therefore we don't want the publicity.

By the time he's released, he's "done the time for the crime" and paid his debt to society. He plans to get a job, pay taxes, and be a law-abiding citizen. Why continue to treat him like he is still in prison?

sunray's wench said...

Scott ~ for many inmates, having a re-entry service well away from their old home location would be a very good thing.

Jennie said...

I know that it is all public information and everyone is legally entitled to it. However, I would have preferred just to see a number instead of a name. I mean really if your next door neighbor wants to see where your family member is locked up and what for they can just go to the TDCJ site. I don't think that the name is needed for statistics.

But it is good to know how many in a county and for what. How better to address issues in your community. How better to get the dollars for programs you might need in your community or within your schools to cut down on these numbers.

I just don't see the need for the names.

Unknown said...

I would like to see a financial estimate on how much taxpayers are on the hook for each sentence.

I know it's problematic to come up with an accurate methodology, but I think being able to talk about sentences in terms of taxpayer liability on a regular basis will eventually turn the tide towards the cost-benefits analysis of diversion.

Jennie said...


According to http://www.texaspolicy.com/pdf/2008-LegeEntry-CorrectionsBudget-ml.pdf the average is about $49 a day to house an imate.