“Correcting the Texas Justice System”
The world of criminal justice policy is changing. This process is not beginning now, but its life is still relatively short. Communities and taxpayers, fed up with inefficient use of resources and public safety redundancies, have begun uniting behind common sense reform proposals. This is occurring across the country, but has been repeatedly hailed as successful in Texas.
Texas has truly been a leading state in conservative criminal justice reform. Beginning in force in 2007, Texas has succeeded in dramatically lowering the incarceration rate and most importantly, the crime rate within its borders. The state has saved billions in averted costs and hundreds of millions in reduced costs by following what many are hailing as the “Texas Model.” This ‘model’ involves prioritizing effectiveness and efficiency by focusing on incarcerating high-risk individuals, monitoring low-risk individuals in communities, and providing individuals that have mental health or drug and alcohol needs with treatment, lowering recidivism.
Marc Levin, Director of Right on Crime, acknowledged the 2007 reforms in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this morning, but also recapped the massive reforms that Texas has continued since, as well as the reforms in 2015 alone:
“In the 2015 session, lawmakers preserved the funding for alternatives to incarceration and adopted numerous new laws that will continue Texas’ progress […] In addition, the most significant juvenile justice legislation since 2007, will redirect even more troubled youths from costly, remotely located state youth lockups to community-based programs that have proven more effective, saving taxpayers $80 million over five years.”
Claims that Texas has resisted reform are contrary to fact. When reforms began – as a recent op-ed stated – Texas was incarcerating 710 people for every 100,000 Texans. Today that ratio has dropped to 602. There are critics, often those who are reluctant to find results in conservative movements. Their confusion possibly results from a misunderstanding of the math regarding the growing Texas general population. A basic understanding of fractions could demonstrate that when the denominator increases, and the numerator decreases or even remains the same, the size of the fraction decreases as well. Unfortunately, confusion over this remains.
Texas is not finished with criminal justice reform. Its legislators will continue to improve the system for their communities. However, giving credit where credit is due, the Texas Model has done much, and done it well.