Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Poll: 3/4 of Texans support incarceration alternatives for nonviolent offenders

The good folks at the Right on Crime campaign hired Gov. Perry's pollster, Mike Baselice, to assess public attitudes about incarceration and the budget. The result, according to a press release:
Poll finds more than three in four conservative Texas voters support alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders to help balance the budget

As Texas lawmakers debate the budget and consider legislation that enhances cost-effective alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, Right on Crime today released a poll at a briefing held with Texans for Fiscal Responsibility President Michael Quinn Sullivan and Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond.
"Texas policymakers uphold the principles of limited government and accountability when it comes to education, healthcare and dozens of other government programs, but they often don't apply those same values to criminal justice," said Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.  "An overwhelming majority of Texas voters, including conservatives, support using the budget challenge as an opportunity to downsize our $5 billion prison system through cost-effective alternatives. Since 2004, Texas has achieved a double-digit decline in both its incarceration and crime rates.  Now, many pending bills and the budget give policymakers an opportunity to build on this success."
The live telephone survey of 802 registered Texas voters, which was conducted by Baselice & Associates on March 20-22, found:
  • 67 percent of registered voters and 68 percent of conservative voters favored policymakers applying the same level of scrutiny to the size and cost of the Texas prison system as to other government programs.
  • 80 percent of registered voters and 77 percent of conservative voters favored requiring nonviolent, first-time felony offenders to work and pay restitution while on mandatory probation supervision in order to help close Texas' budget shortfall.
  • 78 percent of registered voters and 76 percent of conservatives favor stronger court oversight and mandatory treatment instead of prison for low-level drug possession offenders with no prior felonies on their record - a proposal that is embodied in SB1076, which is slated to save Texas $112.5 million over the 2012-13 biennium.
Right on Crime does not endorse specific legislation.  However, SB1076 as well as SB1055, HB1205, and SB1077, which are summarized below, reflect one of Right on Crime's priorities:  cost-effective approaches to reducing crime that protect citizens and hold offenders accountable.  Corrections reforms now being considered by lawmakers would, taken together, save Texas taxpayers more than half a billion dollars.
  • SB1055 provides an incentive to counties whereby they receive a share of the state's savings for community corrections programs, such as drug courts and stronger probation supervision, if they voluntarily agree to send fewer nonviolent offenders to state lockups and achieve performance benchmarks, such as reducing re-offending and increasing restitution collections among their probationers.
  • HB1205 and SB1077 allow probationers to earn time credits toward the completion of their probation term through exemplary conduct such as fully paying restitution and successfully completing treatment and educational programs. 
For the full poll results, please visit http://www.rightoncrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/TX-Poll-Toplines.pdf.


YummyGrits said...

I think that these "Right on Crime" people are using the budget crunch merely as an opportunity to gut the prison system in order to save money. They could actually care less about any alternatives to incarceration. They just want to lower the prison capacity to save money. Period. End of Story.

The reality is, that most of us can get behind some kind of alternative system to deal with those that have violated the law. However, such a system will take a lot of upfront cash to get off the ground. You can bet that these "Right on Crime" folks aren't envisioning ANY expenditures to create alternatives to incarceration.

Kat said...

This is great to hear but considering the overwhelming number of inmates with indigent status, is it reasonable to expect them to pay restitution on the outside? A common theme in the plight of the prison system is how to efficiently serve justice without penalizing the poor for being ... poor.

Don said...

Scott, how much does HB 1 cut the prison budget?

Prison Doc said...

Agree with Don--can you tell us about this or supply a link?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Don, the committee substitute for HB 1 reduces TDCJ's funding by $400 million from the last biennium.

However, last biennium they budgeted short - especially for healthcare costs - so cutting that much from an already inadequate budget creates even a bigger hole than that figure implies.

Here's a summary document (large pdf) of the CSHB 1.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know how many first time non violent offenders actually go to prison in Texas.

Also, what actually constitutes a non-violent crime? If someone is caught burglarizing a home with a weapon (but doesn't use the weapon)is that considered non-violent?

What if the offender doesn't have a prior felony conviction, but several misdemeanor convictions?

Every case should be reviewed based on its own set of circumstances.

Hook Em Horns said...

I would like to know how many first time non violent offenders actually go to prison in Texas.


Anonymous said...

The question remains: Do legislators listen to the people? With 3/4 believing we lock up way too many small-time drug and property offenders for way too many years, you'd think the next step for the lege to take would be a no-brainer. Ah, but you have the Big Prison lobby. And just what would all the hillbillies in Podunctville, Texas, then do for jobs, after all? That's the complaints we heard when they decided to close down the juvenile facilities. They boo-hooed so loud that instead of closing them, they made them adult lock-ups.

Anonymous said...

By law, all first time felony drug offenders caught possessing less than 1 gram of a controlled substance have to automatically be placed on probation. This has been the law for at least 6 years now, if not more.

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