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TribBlog: LBB Makes Criminal Justice Recommendations

Criminal justice in Texas got a fourfold performance review from the Legislative Budget Board today. From incarceration projections to the cost per bed for prisoners, the board broke down the state's public safety performance in cold, hard numbers.

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Criminal justice in Texas got a four-fold performance review from the Legislative Budget Board today. From incarceration projections to the cost per bed for prisoners, the board broke down the state's public safety performance in cold, hard numbers. Here are a few highlights from the four reports. They’re all available online at the LBB website, for those in the mood to dig deeper.

Adult and Juvenile Correctional Population Projections

To keep correctional populations down, the LBB recommends investing in mental health resources. It also suggests altering punishments for DWI offenders, as many take the option of short-term incarceration over treatment through community supervision. The LBB recommends giving corrections departments more flexibility to offer offenders better incentives to choose community treatment programs. Among the LBB's findings: 

  • The raw number of adult arrests is rising as population increases, but the rate of arrests dropped 0.3 percent between 2008 and 2009.
  • Juvenile arrests are falling in number and rate; they're down 4.1 percent.
  • With current sentencing and parole practices, the adult prison population will increase to 159,977 by the end of the 2016 — that’s 3,300 prisoners beyond the state's current capacity.
  • In 2011, Texas Youth Commission residential facilities will have an excess of more than 400 beds, but the population isn’t projected to increase in the next five years.  

Texas At-Risk Youth Services Project

The state defines “at-risk youth” as those with the greatest potential to enter or remain in the juvenile or criminal justice system. The LBB recommends mandating agencies with youth services to share information so that children on the path to prison can be intercepted and given help earlier. It also suggests funding an independent entity to review the best way to service at-risk youth before they’re in trouble with the law. The findings: 

  • According to the report, "at risk youth" are 82 percent male. By ethnicity, they're 58 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black and 18 percent white.
  • The three most common youth crimes are burglary, possession of marijuana and misdemeanor-level theft.
  • A quarter of “at-risk youth” have been the victim of abuse or neglect at some point in their lives.
  • Half of these children have a substance abuse issue, half have a mental health issue, and a third have both.

Statewide Criminal Justice Recidivism and Revocation Rates

  • On average in 2005 and 2006, more than 60 percent of offenders released from state jails were rearrested within three years of release, and more than 30 percent were reincarcerated.
  • Prison rates were slightly lower — 49 percent of those released were rearrested within three years and 25 percent ended up back in prison.
  • Juveniles had a higher rate of three-year reincarceration than adults — three-quarters of those released were rearrested within three years.
  • Parole populations are rising, and revocation rates — the number that end up back in prison, jail or boot camp — has steadily decreased since 2007.

Criminal Justice Uniform Cost Report

Costs are rising in correctional facilities across the state. The LBB attributes most of the rise to salary increases for state corrections officers. Other findings:

  • The state paid $50.79 every day for each bed in state correctional facilities in 2010. That’s more than $18,500 per year per prisoner.
  • In comparison, adult parole supervision costs $3.47 per day per offender.
  • Juveniles cost an average of $359.58 per bed in residential TYC correctional facilities, plus $77.37 for each orientation and assessment day.
  • Juvenile probation costs $17.25 a day per offender.

[Editor's Note: This post has been updated with a correction. The TYC residential facilities will have an excess of 400 beds in 2011, not a shortage.]

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