Texas

 In 2007, Texas was facing an exploding prison population that would have made overcrowded corrections facilities even worse. Already at full capacity, and with an expected 17,000 new inmates coming in at a projected capital cost of $450 million, something had to be done. Instead of spending money to build and operate four additional prisons, then Governor Rick Perry undertook a bipartisan effort to reform the Texas criminal justice system.

 

Texas Faced a Swelling Criminal Population

  • Prison population quadrupled from 1980-2000, increasing to over 150,000 inmates.
  • Texas had built 38 new prisons in five years, adding $1 billion to the state’s annual corrections expenditures.
  • In 2007, Texas spent nearly $3 billion a year on prisons and parole.

 

Enacted Reforms

  • Reduced sentences for nonviolent offenders.
  • Mandated probation and drug treatment instead of jail for first-time, low-risk, nonviolent drug offenders.
  • Granted more discretion to judges in sentencing nonviolent offenders to treatment programs, parole, and probation.
  • Used a portion of cost savings for anti-recidivism programming, victim assistance, drug treatment, and increased funding focused on taking violent criminals off the streets. 

 

Results

  • Since enacted reforms a decade ago, Texas has saved over $2 billion in cost avoidance by shrinking the prison population.
  • Participation in Texas’ drug treatment program for offenders reduced recidivism by 14%.
  • Crime rates dropped by 29%, with Texas now experiencing the lowest crime levels the state as seen since 1968.
  • Earlier in 2017, Texas announced that it was closing four more prisons, saving $49.5 million more in annual operating expenditures.

For a full summary of the initial criminal justice reform legislative action in Texas, see here


 

For more facts and figures, please view the resource below from the Sentencing Project. 

Texas