Saturday, May 30, 2015

Misplaced criminal-justice budget priorities

According to this summary (pdf) of the budget conference committee report, Texas will boost spending on corrections from general revenue by nearly half a billion dollars in the next biennium under the new budget, including 8% raises for correctional and parole officers and $139.4 million more for prison healthcare (which is still $35 million below what the agency said was needed to meet minimum standards).
$6.7 billion in All Funds and $6.6 billion in General Revenue Funds and General Revenue Dedicated Funds is provided for the incarceration, probation, and parole of adult offenders in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) which includes housing, security, classification, food and necessities, healthcare, and treatment services. General Revenue Funds are increased by $458.4 million for the 2016–17 biennium and include $188.0 million for an 8.0 percent pay increase for TDCJ correctional and parole officers, and a $139.4 million increase for Correctional Managed Health Care. Funding for Correctional Managed Health Care for the 2016–17 biennium totals $1.1 billion.
They gave private prisons $18 million extra and allocated a small but necessary sum to DWI treatment. They allocated $0.5 million for PREA audits.

However, despite overall expenses rising in the mid-nine-figure range, the Legislature failed to pass significant sentencing reform for nonviolent offenders or find a way to divert the sick and elderly (who are driving healthcare cost increases). So there's really no reason to think these budget items won't continue to grow.

Add to that amount the extra $800 million going to DPS for border security, and Texas boosted spending on law enforcement and prisons by more than $1.25 billion with very little if any public safety benefit to show for the expense.

For all that extra spending, though, and despite the hoarding fest going on with the spending cap and rainy day fund, legislators couldn't find the $230 million or so needed to abolish the Driver Responsibility surcharge, and all of the reform bills - like nearly all criminal-justice reform bills every year - died in the House Calendars committee or were set on the calendar too late to receive a vote.

When the smoke finally clears, there may be a few decent policy bills that passed this legislative session, but on the big stuff - scaling back mass incarceration and skyrocketing public safety budgets - Texas went decidedly in the wrong direction.


Anonymous said...

There were many hidden forces at play this legislative session. Before going into session I picked up sentencing reforms were going to be minimal. The private prisons industry was quietly at play this sessions killing off reforms to keep their foot in the door after an embarrassing 83rd session.

There needs to be Interim charges on sentencing reforms and medical parole. TDCJ Managed Care has come to point of being unconstitutional. TDCJ needs to set up a medical parole facilty to seek Federal reimbursements. With the 3G sentences, a larger sicker baby boomer population, and lack of investment in proper medical facilities, TDCJ is in serious trouble.

Anonymous said...

Good summary Grits. Disappointing session for us reformers to be sure.

Prison Doc

Anonymous said...

WSJ May 29, 2015

The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over. Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.

sunray's wench said...

Scott, do you think there is an unspoken intention to "make" the Feds step in and clear things up in Texas?

Anonymous said...

Screw every single one of them for not getting the reform bills passed. Too bad all elected offices don't have term limits. You have to wonder if the reform bills were ever seriously considered or if they were just pretending to care. It stands to reason that if our elected representatives really cared about their constituents, they would have found a way to pass all of the reform bills. Texas incarcerates more people than any other state and statistics say that 1 out of every 100 adults in America is in prison. Even worse, 1 out of 32 is on probation, parole or in prison. We really need to vote our worthless congress people out, while we still have the right to vote.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that. Once a Republican, now a Democrat after this session. We have to thank Bob Hall and Ellis for their efforts in the Senate to get the DRP bill passed in their chamber. However, to hell with Flynn who did a whole lot of nothing, and the calendar's committee chair for putting the bill behind campus open carry.... screw the hell out of The Speaker of the House... "it didn't germane" - whoever that answered that call to his office (poor lady) heard my wrath because what he did was demonstrate what a piece of shit he really is and she heard that loud and clear. I agree with the former comment and do believe we need federal intervention and oversight in Texas.... and to not even allow ban the box to get a vote? Pathetic. We need to find the incumbents that did nothing with these reforms and vote for the other candidate this next election. Sincerely - a New Democrat.

tiapa said...

How did the lege ever get into such a mess? We, the People, request legislation from our "representatives" and expect each and every bill to have a chance for a vote, good bill or bad. How did individuals, special interest groups, and self-serving legislative rules get such power over us? Filibusters, calendar committees, cronyism, individuals not allowing a bill to be heard or voted on, and all the other shenanigans have nothing to do with We, the People. After 64 years on this planet this staunch conservative is beginning to believe the radical mantra that we are in an unrecoverable downward spiral. Even common sense has long since left the room. Compassion? Well compassion left the room even earlier.
There is a man, Robert Strother, buried in a cemetery near my house in Texas.
Born in 1786,
- 10 years after the signing of our Declaration of Independence,
- 14 years before George Washington died
- 3 years after the end of the American Revolution,
- The same year Davy Crockett was born. Can you say Alamo?
- Lived through the Franco-American Naval War
- Lived through the Barbary Wars
- Lived through War of 1812
- Lived through the Creek War
- Lived through the War of Texas Independence when Davy Crockett died at the Alamo
- And died in 1861, 4 days after the 6th battle of the Civil War.

There is another man, Albert Woolson, Duluth, Minnesota
born 1848 and ,
- Was 13 when Robert Strother above died,
- Was the last surviving Union veteran of the Civil War,
- Died in on August 2, 1956, at age 109

I was 5 years old in 1956!!!! So I could have known a man who saw a man who saw George Washington!!

We are such a young country to have fallen so far so fast. Bear with me in the following:

In Cleveland two unarmed Americans in a car were killed when 60 squad cars and 100 officers fired 137 bullets in the direction of their stopped vehicle. Forty-seven bullets hit their bodies killing them. After all officers ceased firing one officer stood on their hood and fired at least 15 additional shots downward into the windshield. The passenger’s crime? Their car backfired. The officers? Well, 65 were found guilty of violating orders, nothing more, and a few were suspended for 10 days.

A pizzeria and a bakery were heavily fined by the government for refusing to cater a gay wedding. (Please trolls, I am not anti-gay nor pro-gay, it is the individuals business and I support protection of their right to be gay. I do despise racism though). Would the businesses be in trouble if they refused to cater a wedding in a nudist colony? It seems to be okay to say "No shirt, no shoes, no service". Why? Can't I walk barefoot if I want? The First Amendment prevents the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In 1956 the US Congress adopted "In God We Trust" as our official Motto. Why is a person's refusal to support or participate in a ceremony that flies in the face of their religious beliefs a finable offense? Would a Muslim butcher be fined for refusing to cater a pork barbecue for a Texas wedding?

Why do I bring up these two incidents? Because nobody is watching the chicken coop while legislators spend all their time picking each other’s nose.

Anonymous said...

They are a complete joke.