A Moment of Crime Control Candor, Please!
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
January 27, 2008

On Wednesday evening and Thursday, February 6 and 7, 2008 Bexar County will sponsor a "Jail Symposium" for County Judges and Commissioners, Sheriffs, Judges, Court Coordinators and others across Texas with "An Opportunity to Candidly Assess the Status of Incarceration in Texas and Share Solutions". Since as far back as my legislative days in the 1980's experts on incarceration have been telling the Texas Legislature that we have a problem from which we cannot build our way out. Not much has changed in the twenty ensuing years since then, save and except that our incarcerated prison and jail population has grown even more than our State!

The Texas prison operating budget in 1990 was $793 million. The prison population was 48,320. In 2005, the operating budget was $2,418 million or nearly $2.5 billion for a prison population of over 170,000! That means that nearly everything has tripled!

It would be one thing if the crime rates plummeted while the costs soared, but that is not the case. The underlying statement of "hard on crime" incarceration is that if you commit a crime you will be harshly punished, learn your lesson and made an example to the rest of society. But, the "body hanging in the town square" and being a deterrent to crime is no longer the silver bullet many of us would have hoped for getting in return for our investment.

Here's what "Grits for Breakfast" had to say about Texas crime rates and incarceration in 2004:

"The crime rate for the state of Texas is 23.41% higher than the national average. There are 738,000 adults under correctional supervision (prisons, jails, probation, and parole) in Texas and the correctional supervision rate (number of offenders supervised per 100,000) is 34.87% higher than the national average."

According to the National Institute of Corrections (http://nicic.org (External Site)), "This past decade has seen such a large increase in the population of incarcerated individuals that there can be no historical comparison. If the number of those incarcerated were added to the unemployment rate, the rate would be 2% greater. In the year 2000, 2 million (or 25%) of the world's 8 million prisoners will be housed in the U.S. which only has 5% of the world's population. (With our bountiful blessings of discretionary time and wealth, does this also bring with it the curse of a higher crime society?)

There is little demonstrative correlation between crime rates and imprisonment policies."

With this in mind, we will cover, "Who's in Jail and Why", "Jail Alternatives", "Re-Entry" and the "81st Legislature" (the next one). Dr. Tony Fabelo, former adviser to numerous Governors and others will keynote the luncheon by speaking on "Managing Jail Population Growth in Texas: The State and Local Challenges".

May we gain the wisdom and courage to implement compelling changes for a better society!

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