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.
- 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.
- 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.