Prison Reform Is Big in Texas
The United States, with five percent of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s prisoners. And one tenth of the U.S. prisoners are incarcerated in Texas, a state that has executed 268 people since 2000. Tough on crime talk is politically popular inTexas. But the state has reduced its prison population, pared recidivism rates and saved money with a collection of reforms that fund programs rather than prisons.
A Washington Post story by Reid Wilson reports the prison population in 2014 was 168,000, down from 173,000 in 2010. Instead of anticipating more inmates and planning new prisons, Tony Fabelo, a 20-year veteran of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council and two state legislators designed a system with hundreds of new beds in drug treatment programs for substance abusing parole violators, and intermediate and outpatient facilities for criminal sentenced to probation. Pre-trial diversion programs were created for those suffering from mental illness. A Daily Beast story by Olivia Nuzzi explains the bipartisan push for the combined initiatives that save money and reduce incarceration.
A recent study by the Sentencing Project, a research group that advocates alternatives to incarceration showed no strong relationship between imprisonment and crime. However, its statistics show that crime rates declined more in 30 states with the lowest increases in prison populations than in 20 states with higher increases in prison populations. Analysts are watching for future impact of prison policy changes in Texas. A report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that by the end of 2013 Texas had a modest increase in prison admissions—1.5 percent—and a drop of nearly 10 percent in prison releases.