Prisoner Contributions To State Capitol Construction Sparked Labor Dispute
"Between 1885 and 1887 about 500 prisoners quarried granite and limestone for construction of the new Capitol in Austin; prisoners at the Rusk Penitentiary manufactured the building's interior cast-iron features." Says the Texas State Historical Association.
What's more, the use of prisoners in these capacities was the source of a major labor dispute dubbed the Capitol Boycott, and reading a description of that protracted quarrel, it's a wonder the capitol was ever built at all!
Texas Prisons May be Worse Than Abu Ghraib
November 13th, 2010
The back to back debacles of Bush-Perry have turned the state prison system into a domestic Abu Ghraib in which 'prisoners' are tortured, attacked by dogs, shocked and, in other ways abused, exploited, humiliated, terrified while guards look on and laugh. Others like Bush himself, we suspect, get there jollies. The state of my birth has, under the utterly evil and/or incompetent GOP/right wing rule and exploitation, become an unimaginable hell-hole where poorer children are consistently, deliberately left behind to become fodder for the Fascist-Nazi corporate prison system.
At the same time, the Bush/Perry prison is ripping off Texas taxpayers as we post, reporting one price for public consumption as a much, much lower price is paid in fact. One wonders: who gets the loose change? Who is literally skimming money, bilking the taxpayers of Texas for millions!
The emerging details confirm my suspicions and my earlier articles about the Bush/Perry perversion of justice in Texas. The back to back Bush-Perry regime have made of Texas the fascist template that will most surely extend to all of the United States should the GOP ever gain control of both houses, the Presidency. It already has a 'high court' in its pocket. The recent decision re: corporate personhood is but an omen of much worse to come. Scrotus has proven itself ready and willing to rubber stamp any Fascist - Nazi scheme that a Bush enamored GOP may embrace and/or puke up.
Or, Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in its seven (7) or more branches: TDCJCID (Correctional Institutions Division), TDCJSJ (State Jails), TDCJPD (Parole Division), plus “therapeutic facilities,” “transient facilities,” private prisons by Wackenhut and C.C.A. (fully paid by TDCJ), sundry reparole/prerevocation” facilities, “industrial units” – you counting them? – then 14,000 state felons kept for months in county jails at TDCJ expense for lack of beds in the Greater TDCJ. Each a separate state prison system. Holding some 230,000 inmates – the exact number a heavily guarded secret. World’s highest incarceration rate of 1000 per 100,000 population – ten times England’s, 14 times Cuba’s – plus another 700,000 Texans on parole supervision. Half of this mass of humanity “people of color.” For each adult in prison, count at least one underage child being raised on the streets without parental supervision: “the next TDCJ generation.” If you, dear reader, thing that Abu Ghraib or Gitmo – or tens of secret Gitmos in “friendly” eastern European and third world nations – are but “exceptional mistakes by a few bad apples,” then you been brainwashed by the soothing snake oil of fascist propaganda. In the late 1990’s some TDCJ whistleblower leaked the “Brazorial County Training Video,” that soon made coast to coast telenews sensation: prisoners chained on floor, screaming in excruciating pain, while attack dogs held by laughing prisoncrats bit them over and again. This horror film was a training video to teach newly-hired prison guards! Texas governor then was George Walker Bush: current de facto misruler of the U.S.A.
George W. Bush comes from a long line of criminals and traitors. Hist great grandfathers were Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush, who in the 1930’s ran a New York bank and associated string of dummy businesses whose only real aim was to launder money for the Nazi regime in Germany. And kept doing so until October 1942 – nearly a year after Pearl Harbor and the U.S.A at war with Germany – when the FDR administration expropriated the lot under the Trading with the Enemy Act. A fact of public record1 yet not a word about it in our flamboyant and ohsofree mainstream press. In 1994 the TDCJ employees PAC – “political action committee” to donate campaign funds and for heavy handed strongarm tactics “to get the vote” helped Bush defeat incumbent Ann Richards for governor of Texas. TDCJ then had a total of 72,000 prisoners: deemed “overcrowded” by the federal Ruiz Court. In payment and gratitude, in only 16 months, by June 1996, Bush caused TDCJ population to swell to over 150,000. By appointing or manipulating a Board of Pardons and Paroles – BPP, then wholly separate from TDCJ – to cut parole releases from a historical average of 85% of those eligible, to a mere 16%! Ever since the TDCJ has steadily increased, based on parole release rates fluctuating from 20% to 25% of eligible inmates.
In 1994 TDCJ was “pestered” by having to answer citizens’ requests under the Texas Open Records Act (TORA), prisoners among the most zealous watchdogs of TDCJ shenanigans. Such as the “VitaPro scandal” for which TDCJ Director Andy Collins got convicted in Houston federal court; but many other scandals, like the “visitation room pizza scandal” or when some 1000 lavatories for which taxpayers paid $200 apiece, were switched with others costing $10 at KMart.
Or when the pickup truck of TDCJ’s overall general auditor was found near Huntsville full of bullet holes and blood all over, but the FBI found, two years later, the “victim” alive, well, and much richer in Pennsylvania. Well then, Bush signed into law Government Code 552.028 by which TDCJ may refuse any disclosure by simply saying it came from a prisoner, or (no proof needed) by a “friend of prisoners.” Tus freed from any and all public scrutiny and free to commit any crime with full impunity – theft, murder, drug traffic, fraud, “pork barrel contracts”: all of which TDCJ prisoncrats do! – the honest public servants in the various TDCJ’s went into an allout spendthrift and grand larceny crime spree. Which just in 2006 totalled $17.5 billion expenditures!
--Ana Lucia Gelabert, Some Facts You Should Know About Texas Prisons
When Bill Clinton was President, 'Judge Dredd' was just a futuristic movie in which a fascist regime presided over a two-tiered society. Miranda protections are non-existent and 'justice' is administered on-the-spot by armed 'judges'. The future is now.
Under Bush/Perry, Texas had become the lab study, the model upon which a fascist state may one day pattern itself should the GOP regain the absolute power it almost had under Bush Jr. The key to the GOP plan in Texas is education on the one hand, the prison system on the other. One hand washes the other in a diabolically simple plan, in fact, a laundered payoff:
• subvert education thus causing crime to rise as it most surely will as a result;
• warehouse the 'criminals' in facilities built and operated by exceedingly rich and corporate GOP contributors.
There are precedents in Nazi Germany. I.G. Farben, as I recall, developed Zyklon B, thereby benefiting greatly by the crime of genocide. I.G. Farben was, thus, rewarded for its support when Hitler passed the plate at a meeting attended by Farben, Thyssen, Krupp and, I seem to recall, a representative of the American Ford Motor Company.
Why is education the key? Simply: if you don't get skills, you don't get a job! The corporate prison system is assured an income, a full-house as it were, as long as Texas competes with the likes of Mississippi for dead last in high school graduations.
Naturally, the axis of Bush/Perry denied their dismal record. They tried to cover up Texas’ dropout crisis by falsifying dropout numbers. In fact, at least 3 in 10 Texas high school students do not graduate from high school. Bush-Perry and the GOP did NOT want you to know that and lied about it. As the Houston Chronicle reported in their story.
Poverty, dropout rates bode grim future for state", the dropout? crisis will have serious long-term damage to our state’s economy if Rick Perry continues to cover-up the problem.
It does not matter to Bush/Perry and the Nazis and Fascists who have enriched themselves at the expense of you and I. It does not matter to Bush or Perry that while Texas is 'big' on capital punishment, the industrialized application of the death penalty simply cannot kill off the criminals as fast as they procreate and multiply. Because crime rates seem always higher in death penalty states, the GOP will not get a free lunch. A price must be paid. Ergo: the GOP may be seeking a "final solution".
...by year's end 1999, there were 706,600 Texans in prison, jail, parole or probation on any given day. In a state with 14 million adults, this meant that 5% of adult Texans, or 1 out of every 20, are under some form of criminal justice supervision. The scale of what is happening in Texas is so huge, it is difficult to contrast the size of its criminal justice systems to the other states' systems it dwarfs:
• There are more Texans under criminal justice control than the entire populations of some states, including Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska.
• According to Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates, one quarter of the nation's parole and probationers are in Texas. California and Texas, together, comprise half the nation's parolees and probationers.
• The number of people incarcerated in Texas (in prison or jail) reached 207,526 in mid-year 1999. Only California, with 10 million more citizens, has more people in both prison and jail.
• Texas has a rate of 1,035 people behind bars for every 100,000 in the population, the second highest incarceration rate in the nation (second only to Louisiana). If Texas was a nation separate from the United States, it would have the world's highest incarceration rate--significantly higher than the United States (682), and Russia (685) which has 1 million prisoners, the world's third biggest prison system. Texas' incarceration rate is also higher than China (115), which has the world's second largest prison population (1.4 million prisoners).
• If the US shared the incarceration rate of Texas, there would be nearly three million Americans behind bars (2,822,300)--instead of our current 2 million prisoners.
• The Texas prison population tripled since 1990, and rose 61.5% in the last five years of this decade alone. In 1994, there were 92, 669 prisoners in Texas. This number had increased to 149,684 by mid-year 1999.
• The Texas correctional system has grown so large that in July 2000, corrections officials ran out of six digit numbers to assign inmates, and officially created prisoner number 1,000,000.
--An Analysis of Incarceration and Crime Trends in The Lone Star State Texas is called the gulag state for good reason. Justice in Texas is applied inequitably. Minorities --primarily black and Hispanic --are disproportionately represented in the Texas gulag system but under represented in the State legislature, the various city councils, and the state judicial system.
If nothing changes, average TX household incomes will be some $6500 lower in 30 years than in 2000, according to projections. It? could be even worse: the number is NOT adjusted for inflation. The GOP does not want to talk about this. The GOP would rather demagogue this issue. The GOP does not want you to know what miserable, bald-faced liars they are.
In the meantime, they will exploit the inevitable rise in crime. They will contract out the eventual imprisonment of every child that is routinely left behind. They will try to distract you with BS about immigrants when, in fact, the real cause of increasing crime is not due to illegal immigration but, rather, it is the inevitable result of GOP incompetence, greed and their deliberate, fascist exploitation of the prison system for the enrichment of an increasingly tiny elite. That's true in Texas --the GOP fascist lab --and it is true wherever the GOP infestation has managed to plant its crooked root.
By Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy Texas Prisons May be Worse Than Abu Ghraib, via The Existentialist Cowboy
Just filling prisons won't make us safer
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
In several speeches, Barack Obama has used an easy, if imprecise, formulation to express his despair over the high incarceration rate of young black men. "I don't want to wake up four years from now and discover that we still have more young black men in prison than in college," he said at a rally last year, repeating, more or less, a line used frequently by critics of the criminal justice system.
But it's not accurate. If you were to check with academic and criminal justice sources, you'd find, happily, that there are far more young black men in college — about 530,000, ages 18 to 24 — than in prison — about 106,000 in the same age group.
Still, Obama's count expresses a larger truth. If you counted black men under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system — on probation, in prison or on parole — you'd find that their numbers are higher than those pursuing a college degree. And, on any given day, about one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 (more than 475,000) are locked up in city or county jails or state or federal prisons, according to The Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group that advocates alternatives to incarceration.
Not all those black men behind bars are hardened criminals. Many have done something dumb — written a bad check, failed to pay child support, bought a $5 bag of crack. But they haven't robbed or maimed or murdered. Still, they've ended up with criminal records that are likely to haunt them for the rest of their lives, limiting their chances at decent employment.
Unfortunately, Obama hasn't made the nation's soaring prison population — more than one in a hundred American adults is behind bars — a major theme of his campaign. He probably believes he can't afford to. Democrats have long been burdened by the perception that they are "soft on crime," so a black Democrat would be even less likely than a white Democrat to linger on the subject of black men in prison.
John McCain is not going to make an issue of it, either. And that's too bad.
The harsh sentences imposed over the past few decades, especially for drug offenses, have contributed to the much-discussed decline of the black family, taking black men away from their children, stigmatizing them with criminal records and locking them up with hard-core lifers.
It's no wonder many of them remain marginalized — indeed, commit other crimes — after they are released.
Certainly, many offenders belong behind bars, especially those who are violent. I hold no brief for those who have chosen to live outside the bounds of civilized society, whether gangbangers who rape girls in savage "initiations" or carjackers who stick a gun in your face to steal your SUV. Research suggests that most violent crimes are committed by a small group of predators. And law-abiding black Americans are disproportionately the victims of those thugs.
But we don't keep streets safer with draconian policies that lock up petty offenders. While many Americans believe that the stark decline in crime during the past decade is a result of harsh sentencing laws, experts say the evidence doesn't bear that out. "About 25 percent of the decline in violent crime can be attributed to increased incarceration, " according to The Sentencing Project.
Of all the misguided criminal justice policies, the failed "war on drugs" has been the most destructive. It has swept up legions of black men whose biggest crime was being poor and buying their drugs on ghetto street corners, making them easy targets of police officers who swoop down and make busts to boost their arrest numbers. If the same drug users were more affluent, they could buy their drugs discreetly and avoid arrest. And if they were caught, they'd likely serve a sentence in a pricey drug rehab unit rather than a prison cell.
No one wants to see violent crime climb back to the levels of the 1970s and '80s, when many urban neighborhoods were under siege. The drop in crime has eased tensions between black and white Americans and fostered the revitalization of inner cities.
But not every dumb kid with dope in his car will become a career criminal. Most of them won't. Unless we lock them up with career criminals for 10 years and give them an advanced degree in villainy.
Vote for this story!
FACTS: About TDCJ
Enclosed is some information compiled by the
FACT: Texas' crime rate is very high compared to states with fewer prisons.
So, by continuing to put more people in prison, it is not likely that the crime rate will get lower. In fact, it is even possible that an unintended consequence of our over-incarceration is an increased crime problem.
Since the early 1990's, Texas has tripled the size of its prisons, expanding its prison space and the number of prisoners faster than any other state. In fact, Texas' incarceration rate is 51% higher than the national average. (1)
However, the crime rate has not declined in Texas faster than in other states. In spite of prisoner expansion, the crime rate is 24% higher than the national average. (2)
(1) TDCJ Community Assistance Division, Community Supervision in Texas: Summary Statistics January 2003, Prepared by Research and Evaluation
(2) TDCJ Community Justice Assistance Division, Community Supervision in Texas: Summary Statistics January 2003, Prepared by Research and Evaluation.
FACT:Research shows that evidence-based treatment programs are more likely to reduce crime than "tough on crime" penalties.
After conducting an analysis of various criminal justice models, the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council found that offenders who received appropriate treatment were 4 times less likely to go back to prison than those who did not.
Other studies have shown that severe punishments can have the opposite effect as that intended. According to the United States Department of Justice, National Corrections Institute:
· Punishment produced a -0.07% change in an individual's inclination towards criminal activity (meaning it increased criminal behavior).
· Treatment produced a 15% positive change in an individual's inclination towards criminal activity (meaning it decreased criminal behavior).
· Cognitive skills programs produced a 29% improvement in an individual's inclination towards criminal activity (meaning they were best at decreasing criminal behavior).
(1) Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections; reported by Minnesota Judge and scholar Dennis Challeen.
FACT:Texas spends almost all of its criminal justice dollars on prison beds and law enforcement – not on programs that work, like drug treatment and diversion programs.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) spends billions of our state tax dollars each year, but it spends little of its funds on proven treatment and diversion programs. In fact, TDCJ gets about $5 billion from the Texas Legislature every two years, and it spends an average of 90% of those funds on prison beds or "hard incarceration." Only 10% goes towards community-based programming, like substance abuse treatment and probation programs.
(1) Furthermore, over the past ten years TDCJ funding of programs outside of prison walls has actually decreased.
(2) The cost of failing to provide Texans with the help they need extends far beyond the criminal justice system. In Texas, the total economic cost associated with alcohol and drug abuse in 2000 alone was estimated at $25.9 billion.
(3) Furthermore, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, over 1.3 million Texans need but do not receive treatment for alcohol abuse, and over 400,000 Texans need but do not receive treatment for illicit drug use.
(1) TDCJ Community Justice Assistance Division, Report to House Corrections / Appropriations Committees, March 17, 2004.
(2) TDCJ Community Justice Assistance Division, Report to House Corrections / Appropriations Committees, March 17, 2004.
(3)Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Annual Report, 2003.
FACT: Children often pay the price for Texas' harsh over-incarceration policies.
More than half of the people in Texas prison are parents. Children of these incarcerated individuals often end up living with grandparents or in the state foster care system.
The financial impact of over-incarceration policies on these children is staggering: parents who are currently in Texas prisons owe $2.5 billion in unpaid child support to children who live in Texas.
(1) Studies have indicated that children who have a parent in prison are more likely to become delinquent, and are 6-8 times more likely to end up in prison themselves.
(1) The US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that Texas has 164,222 people in prison; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reports that 55% of the adults in Texas prison are parents, and the Texas Attorney General reports that the average adjudicated child support arrears for Texas prisoners is $28,000 each
FACT: Our Texas Legislature and our Governor determine who is sent to prison, and for how long. They have the power to change state sentencing laws to refocus on proven treatment alternatives.
As of year end 1999, there were 706,600 Texans in prison, jail, parole or probation on any given day. In a state with 14 million adults, this meant that 5% of adult Texans, or 1 out of every 20, are under some form of criminal justice supervision.
(1) More prison beds are needed in Texas than in any other state because our felony sentences are so long – even for nonviolent felonies. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported that more than half of prisoners behind bars were being held for a non-violent crime.
(2) Nearly half of Texas' 15,000 state jail felony prisoners are serving time for drug convictions involving less than one gram (less than a sugar packet-full). These offenders cost Texas taxpayers $73 million a year to incarcerate – money that could be better invested in education, families, and alternatives that work.
(1) Texas Department of Criminal Justice, The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
(2) Texas Department of Criminal Justice, The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
FACT: If Texas politicians continue to adhere to "tough on crime" policies, the end result will be spending billions to construct of thousands of new prison beds.
Texas has added 4,000 new prison beds to the system since the 2003 legislative session, and they are full. If policies do not change, Texas is expected to need 2,000 additional prison beds every year.
And prison spending continues to grow in Texas, increasing faster than health care or education.
Each time the Texas Legislature meets, it passes numerous new "enhancements" (an increased punishment for an already existing offense). Politicians who want to be tough on crime must realize that being tough means doing "what works" to change criminal behavior.
FACT: African Americans and Latinos are treated disparately at all levels of our criminal justice system.
Nationwide, Latinos are serving time in prison at 2.5 times the rate of whites.
(1) In Texas, if people are continued to be put into prison at the same rate as they are now, 1 out of every 6 Latino men born in 2001 will serve time in prison at some point in their lives. On the other hand, a white man born in 2001 is almost three times less likely to see the inside of a prison.
(2) Furthermore, although African-Americans represent 12 percent of the Texas population, they make up 44 percent of the total prison and jail population. One out of every four adult black men in Texas today is under some form of criminal justice supervision.
(3) In Texas, law enforcement agencies also treat people of color differently. Approximately 2 out of every 3 law enforcement agencies reported searching Blacks and Latinos at higher rates than whites following a traffic stop, even though most searches are fruitless.
(4) In some departments, more than 95 percent of African Americans and Latinos searched did not do anything wrong, yet they suffered the humiliation and demoralization of a search that simply wasted everyone's time.
(5) Similarly, 8 out of every 9 regional narcotics task forces in Texas search African Americans for drugs more often than they search whites, while 7 out of every 9 task forces in Texas search Latinos for drugs more often than they search whites.
(6) (1) Beck, Allen and Paige Harrison. Prisoners in 2001. (2003) Washington, DC: Office of Justice Program, Bureau of Justice Statistics; compiled by Vincent Schiraldi and Jason Ziedenberg, Justice Policy Institute Race, Ethnicity and Incarceration in Texas: Recent Findings on the Impact of Imprisonment on Latinos and African Americans, April 2004.
(2) Bonczar, Thomas. Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001. (2003) Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. compiled by Vincent Schiraldi and Jason Ziedenberg, Justice Policy Institute Race, Ethnicity and Incarceration in Texas: Recent Findings on the Impact of Imprisonment on Latinos and African Americans, April 2004.
(3) Texas Department of Criminal Justice, The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
(4) Dwight Steward of the Steward Research Group, and Molly Totman of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC), on behalf of the ACLU of Texas, NAACP of Texas, Texas LULAC, and TCJC; Don't Mind If I Take a Look, Do Ya? An Examination of Consent Searches and Contraband Hit Rates at Texas Traffic Stops, February 2005.
(5) Dwight Steward of the Steward Research Group for the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, the ACLU of Texas, NAACP of Texas, and Texas LULAC, Racial Profiling: Texas Traffic Stops and Searches, February 2004.
(6) ACLU of Texas, Flawed Enforcement, May 2004, available on the ACLU of Texas website.
FACT: Once an adult is convicted of a felony in Texas, that person is a "felon" for the rest of his life – the "felon" label is on the person's criminal record permanently.
The permanent legal barriers and roadblocks that face felons affect all of life's most fundamental necessities – food, clothing, shelter, employment, and education.
Food and Clothing: The 1996 federal welfare law prohibits anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from receiving federally funded food stamps and cash assistance (also known as TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). This is a lifetime ban – even if someone has completed his sentence, overcome an addiction, or earned a certificate of rehabilitation, the bans remains in place.
Shelter: Federal law gives local public housing agencies the ability to deny housing to virtually anyone with a criminal background. Private landlords can (and usually do) refuse to rent to felons.
Employment: Texas does not have any law that prohibits discrimination by employers based on a criminal record.
Education: Federal law states that students who are convicted of a drug-related offense are ineligible for grants, loans, and work assistance
(1) – a federal legal barrier that cannot be altered by the states. No other class of offense, including violent offenses, sex offenses, repeat offenses, or alcohol-related offenses, results in the automatic denial of education financial aid eligibility.
(1) Federal Higher Education Act of 1998.
FACT: Texas' probation terms are long and difficult to complete.
Texas has the largest probation population in the United States, due mainly to its long probation terms for nonviolent offenders.
(1) Overall, Texas' probation terms are 67% longer than the national average and can last up to ten years.
(2) Stringent conditions are imposed on probationers, and rules are inconsistently enforced from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Because of the difficult conditions imposed on probationers, many have their probation revoked and are sent back to prison. In fact, from 1994 to 2000, technical revocations (people who were sent to prison for failing probation with no new offense alleged) increased by 58%. These technical revocations in the year 2000 cost state taxpayers $220 million to incarcerate.
(3) The average amount of time spent in Texas prisons after probation is revoked – whether for technical or non-technical revocations – is 4.3 years. Texas taxpayers spend $470 million per year just to imprison all of the probationers who were revoked from probation in 2001.
(4) Sadly, almost half of those sent to Texas prison with revoked probation had already successfully completed several years of their probation. Most should have been eligible for early release from probation already, but Texas keeps probationers in the system as long as possible to maximize revenue from fees.
(1) Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, Biennial Report to the 78th Texas Legislature, January 2003
(2) Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, Biennial Report to the 78th Texas Legislature, January 2003; based on Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2002.
(3) TDCJ Community Justice Assistance Division, Strengthening Community Supervision Sanctions &Services: A Local-State Partnership, Technical Violations Committee Recommendations, March 2001.
(4) Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, Biennial Report to the 78th Texas Legislature, January 2003.
*Texas Prison Myths:
*"Tough on crime" policies are the
*The more people in prison,
*Texas already spends enough money on programs that
*Probation in Texas is short and easy to complete.
*A felon's punishment ends the day he walks out of prison.
*The system is fair, there is no
*We must build more prisons because there is nothing
*Change will never happen in Texas because
*The Criminal Justice System only affects
+Texas Prison Facts:
+For every $1 that Texas spent on treatment,
+Texas' incarceration rate is 51% higher than the
+Only 18% of the people who need substance abuse
+Texas has the largest probation population in the
+Prison spending in Texas increased 268% from 1988
+Nearly half of Texas' 15,000 state jail felony
+90% of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
+Over 7,000 Texas felons on probation are seriously
Posted on Oct. 17, 2004
Texas tall tales abound when it comes to fighting crime.
By Richard Gonzales
Notions on how to reduce criminality have held political sway in the Lone Star State too long over scientific studies of "what works."
Politicians, who should know better, have pandered to fears that crime runs amok in the streets. The results are counterproductive "get-tough" policies that exacerbate crime, break up families and cost taxpayers billions.
In a criminal justice policy brief that the Texas LULAC state executive office released in August, researchers show that since the 1990s, Texas has tripled the number of prisons and has a 51 percent higher incarceration rate than any other state.
The Legislature gives the Texas Department of Criminal Justice about $5 billion each biennium. TDCJ spends 90 percent of the money on prison beds and 10 percent on treatment and probation programs.
Part of the reason for the hefty spending is that Texas felony sentences are double the national average. Yet 70 percent of the prison admissions each year are for nonviolent crimes. About half of the prisoners are serving time for drug convictions of possession of less than one gram.
The interest of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Texas crime and punishment stems partly from the over-representation of Latinos and blacks in prison. The Justice Policy Institute found that even though 40 percent of Texans in 2003 were black and Latino, 70 percent of the prison population was minority. LULAC projects that at the current Latino imprisonment rate, one out of six Latino men born in 2001 will serve prison time.
LULAC cites studies claiming that racial profiling by police departments and drug task forces results in more searches of Latinos than whites. To accommodate the millennium prisoners, LULAC predicts, there will be a need for 2,000 new prison beds each year.
Texas also has the distinction of having the largest on-probation population in the United States, mainly because of its long probation terms for nonviolent offenders.
The study found that probation officers have too large a caseload for them to respond adequately to probationers' needs. Although probationers can successfully meet the terms of probation for years, one slip-up may land them back in prison.
The average prison term on a revoked probation is 4.3 years. In 2001, this cost the state $470 million.
Despite the money, probation terms and hard time, Texas crime didn't decrease more than any other state's. Instead, the crime rate is 24 percent higher than the national average, according to 2003 TDCJ data.
Imprisonment of the heads of households also takes its toll on the family and community.
The LULAC study claims that the children of imprisoned parents tend to make lower grades, drop out, become delinquent and increase their chances of following their parents into prison. Removing the significant male adult from a child's life leaves a void difficult for the mom and grandparents to fill. The absence of fathers in a community devalues the importance of males and places increased child-rearing burdens on women.
The report also found that imprisoned parents owed $2.5 billion in unpaid child support. A cycle of intergenerational poverty and crime is set in motion, abetted by tough policies that punish criminals and families.
LULAC says that "tough on crime punishments simply do not work on most offenders."
In a state looking for quick and easy solutions to crime, "lock-'em-up' blocks our chances to teach nonviolent felons internal restraints and different thinking patterns.
The U.S. Department of Justice found that punishment increased criminal behavior; psychological treatment and cognitive skills programs decreased criminal activity the most.
The study found that "what works" are job training, drug treatment, and peer and family support. That kind of treatment is meant not to mollycoddle criminals but to provide a way out of self-defeating thoughts and actions.
LULAC is traveling across the state to raise awareness in communities that evidence-based alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders save money, time, families and communities. It recommends that the Legislature reduce nonviolent, small-quantity drug use from felony to misdemeanor status.
Texas legislators should stop the bravado crime-fighter shtick that does little to reduce crime and instead rely on "what works" studies.
Texas needs fewer Robocops and more Joe Fridays. "Just the facts" will do fine.
Richard J. Gonzales is an Arlington resident
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