Monday, November 23, 2020

Lower Texas prison population numbers stem from declining arrests

Grits has remarked recently on the eye-popping reduction in the Texas prison population this year. But this year's declines aren't the only un-anticipated decrease at play.

In recent years, the Texas Legislative Budget Board's projections for TDCJ's population have been consistently overstated. From their most recent projection document:

So it's not just that the prison population declined this year, it's been trending lower than projected for some time. What's causing this decline? Fewer arrests, of all types, has a lot to do with it. Arrests of adults have been declining for years, with a particularly large drop seen in 2019. Only drug arrests continued to increase over this period, and those only modestly (the one-year decline in drug arrests in 2019 almost certainly related to jurisdictions ceasing marijuana prosecutions because of the new hemp law):

So it's not that sentencing practices have changed (except for property crimes, where the offense thresholds were updated in 2015 to account for inflation). Fewer people are being roped into the system on the front end, with the biggest reduction in arrests for violent crime. Arrests of adults declined 14.8% from 2015 to 2019, and for juveniles went down 17.5%, reported LBB. And that was before arrests declined even more this year thanks to COVID. 

1 comment:

Steven Michael Seys said...

One police reform you haven't mentioned that would continue the trend of fewer arrests is to change the training of investigators to only follow the facts. Currently, investigators are taught to follow their gut and use formulaic templates for crimes. But no two crimes are the same, even when committed by the same person. How many innocent people have been exonerated now because some investigator invested emotional currency in getting them when they had indigestion? If empirical methods are followed, no one would be fabricating evidence to get a subject because they "know in their gut" he's the one. Two things that ought to be separated from investigation are emotion and instinct.