"A Problem We Cannot Build Our Way Out Of"
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
February 20, 2007
Yes, that's what we were told by experts in the early 1980's when I served as a member of the Bexar County legislative delegation in the Texas House of Representatives and we were confronted with a prison space shortage. Ever since then I have understood the need to get at the root cause of crime in an effort to break the cycle of repeated crime. Yes it is in the interest of the offender but more narrowly it is in our own enlightened self-interest to promote good behavior, save money, obtain restitution, redirect lives into constructive directions and promote the safety of our community.
Consider the following information gleaned from various criminal justice statistics:
- In the U.S. there are over 2,200,000 adults in prison.
- There Over 7,000,000 people in prison, jail, probation and parole.
- The U.S. has 5% of world's population; 25% of world's prisoners.
- One of every 140 U.S. residents is in jail or prison.
- Almost 10% of all African-American males, ages 25-29 are in prison.
- 97% of offenders sent to prison will one day be released.
- The question is when, not if, 700,000 adult inmates will be released from prison this year and each year for the foreseeable future.
- Of those released, two-thirds will be rearrested within 3 years.
- Of those rearrested, over half will return to prison.
First of all, every 400 inmates is estimated to cost us around $8 million annually. We regularly have about 4,000 inmates so that's $80 million annually to incarcerate at our jail! What's really sick is that about 81% are estimated to have already been in our jail before!
Judge Dennis Challeen said, "Courts routinely make criminals accountable, but rarely do they make them responsible. The prison is not conducive to change. It feeds on the very character defects that cause the criminal his problems in the first place"
While retaining our need to hold offenders accountable, if we are to break the cycle of repeat offenses, we must pursue restorative justice, described by Tony Marshall as "a process whereby the parties with a stake in the offense come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future."
Many of you know that I have been a supporter of the Sheriff Arpaio styled tent jails which the legislature will consider. This is a tough tool appropriate for certain populations of our jail. The idea of also working to break the cycle of repeated criminal activity without coddling offenders is a worthy goal for those who can be redirected.
I look forward to keeping you posted.