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December 8, 2004

Another side to Texas justice

As detailed here and here, the stories of Texas justice is pretty grim when considering capital punishment.  But thanks to Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast, I see from this encouraging Austin American Statesman article that there is another side to Texas justice.  Here are some snippets from an article which provides another example of how tight budgets and the high costs of mass incarceration are forcing states to reconsider "tough on crime" policies:

These days [Texas state Representative Ray] Allen is among a growing list of key state leaders and officials who are arguing for more programs to benefit convicts -- such as drug treatment, therapy and education in prisons as well as job placement, mentoring and re-entry initiatives once they get out. It is part of growing national trend, experts say, a stark contrast to the days of passing three-strikes laws, building more prisons and cutting programs in order to make the environment inside the lockups as punitive as possible.

"These wouldn't have been things I'd have thought about or said back in those days," said Allen, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, who earned the nickname "No Way, Ray" for his hard-line views on crime a decade ago. "Tight budgets have forced fiscal conservatives like myself to ask the same questions liberals were asking 10 years ago. We're all at the same reality now on criminal justice, I think: We simply cannot afford to keep everyone behind bars."

It costs Texans about $2 a day to keep a convict on probation, and $45 a day to keep him in prison, Allen said.

Signs of the slow shift in public policy are everywhere as lawmakers prepare to return to Austin in January.

Last spring, the Department of Criminal Justice created the Rehabilitation and Re-entry Programs Division to consolidate and better coordinate existing state and local initiatives to help the 60,000 inmates who leave Texas prisons each year. Top prison administrators are participating in a Travis County experiment establishing a community network to help ex-offenders. New programs are being offered for convicts who are leaving solitary confinement to return home. 

Scott Henson provides more excerpts and commentary on this article and Texas justice here.  And for just a few other recent examples of state officials expressing concerns about the high costs of mass incarceration, see:

December 8, 2004 at 09:16 PM | Permalink


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Rep. Allen is representative of a large class of lawmakers at all levels of government. They talked tough on crime, and enacted harsh penalties, knowing that some day the bill would come due. They implicitly promised to pay the bills, even if it meant slashing spending for schools and raising taxes. Now that it's time to pay up, they welsh out. It is that rampant kind of hypocrisy that turns many good people off when it comes to the actions of government at all levels.

Posted by: Greg Jones | Dec 8, 2004 10:43:22 PM

Around and around and around we go...where (and when) rehab matters, no one knows!

The problem continues to remain at the underlying level, however: some common sense to reforming these laws is sorely needed. Minor drug offender: rehab probaby the best approach for all involved (including taxpayers). Sexual preditors: not so much.
Still, it's somewhat interesting to watch the pendulum swing back the other direction. Perhaps like Nixon to China, only elected officials like Ray Allen can effectively advocate for turning away from the "lock 'em all up" mentality currently en vogue in Texas (and other places).

Posted by: R. Anon | Dec 9, 2004 11:22:36 AM

I am the mother of Anthony Garza, who at the age of 15years old committed a crime of agrivated robbery. When my son turned 16 the police department picked him up and charged him as an adult. He was sentenced 2 consecutive 40 year prison terms and the adult that was with him was sentenced 8 years.

What I don't understand is why would they sentence my son as if though he committed murder. Please don't get me or my son wrong, he fully understands that he broke the law and expects to pay for what he has done. But to lock the doors and throw away the key is wrong. He tells me that there was an angel watching over him and the two boys he robbed that night, because it could have turned out worse.

I see murderers get light sentences and the State of Texas throws away the key when it comes to juveniles.

I need some advise. How can I help my son reduce his time? Any bit of advise on how I can help him pursue this goal is very deeply appreciated.

Ms.Liz Ruvalcaba

Posted by: Elizabeth Ruvalcaba | Jan 9, 2005 10:17:16 PM

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