Perspective: The True Cost of Inadequate Community Reintegration of State Jail Offenders in Texas
In a new policy perspective published at the Texas Public Policy Foundation today, some of the consequences of ineffectively reintegrating offenders back into society upon completion of their sentence are brought to bare.
“The True Cost of Inadequate Community Reintegration of State Jail Offenders in Texas,” by Kate Murphy, policy fellow in mental health, highlights that when such offenders are released–particularly those who serve their entire sentence–they often times are not properly supervised. This, in turn, may contribute to the high recidivism rates found among state jail offenders, and has a negative effect on maintaining public safety:
“With a rearrest rate of 62.7 percent and a reincarceration rate of 30.6 percent for state jail offenders, our current solution is failing most of the time—an unfortunate outcome for such a significant financial obligation. The outcomes for state jail offenders released from our criminal justice system coupled with Texas’ criminal justice system expenditures indicate the current correctional system is not efficiently reaching its goal of improving public safety.”
Murphy also states that upon release, the family and community a state jail offender returns to can affect that offender, and vice versa. Therefore, certain characteristics of that society can have significant bearing on whether or not that ex-offender will have a positive outcome, or end up right back behind bars:
“Strong family connections can improve outcomes for returning inmates. Most state jail inmates expect their family to provide financial resources, housing, and emotional support after release. And most families do provide such practical and intangible support. But unfortunately, many families contribute to further criminal activity and jeopardize reentry.
For instance, a 2008 study focusing on Texas and Ohio found that more than a quarter of men and a third of women will return to a living situation that includes former prisoners or current substance users, which could increase the likelihood of reincarceration.”
Administering a justice system in Texas is costly. According to Murphy, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice spent $3.3 billion on and off budget to incarcerate 154,576 offenders in 2010 alone. As such, it behooves corrections officials–and society at large–to collaboratively espouse practices that appropriately support offenders as they leave the system:
“Reentry services can be provided by the private sector to all inmates now being discharged from state jails without any net additional cost to taxpayers. The ideal solution lies in adopting a policy that allows state jail inmates to volunteer to leave one month early in exchange for spending three months connected to such reentry services that would be paid for with private funding…
…The government cannot meet all the needs of the 70,000 offenders who reenter society in Texas each year, but it can facilitate the work of private organizations that willing and able to help…Allowing charitable and private sector organizations to take the lead in enhancing post-release support for state jail offenders in Texas could provide that second chance for a better life.”
The full policy perspective can be found here.