A recent article in the Austin American-Statesman, titled “Texas prison population shrinks as rehabilitation programs take root,” covers the state’s recent success in reducing its incarceration rate. Texas’s prison population is at its lowest in five years, despite sustained growth in the state’s overall population. This is due, in part, to Texas’s recent focus on alternatives to incarceration, such as treatment and rehabilitation, which are both cheaper and more effective at preventing recidivism than simply locking up offenders.
As Right On Crime’s Marc Levin notes, these proven alternatives are the conservative solution to a burgeoning prison system, a problem that had been ignored for too long.
“Policies in various states are finally catching up with what we know works,” said Marc Levin, director at the Austin-based Center for Effective Justice [at the Texas Public Policy Foundation] and a leader in the national Right on Crime campaign, which promotes community-justice solutions.
“For most nonviolent offenders, community-based initiatives are much cheaper and have much better outcomes,” Levin said. “In this time of tight budgets and programs that work, this is the conservative thing to do.”
Similarly, as outlined in a recent piece in the Houston Chronicle titled “Texas says rise in parolees gives state bragging rights,” Texas officials are celebrating further corrections reform success. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has continued its trend of granting parole more often, and revoking it less often; paroles are now granted 31% of the time, a 6% increase over the past decade, and revocations are down 44% from the all-time high (11,374) in 2004.
Most importantly, the state is seeing public safety benefits. Texas is returning more people to their families and communities, while fewer crimes are being committed (three percent fewer this year than in the previous one). Parolees are generally electronically monitored and many more offenders are now completing recidivism-reducing programs in prison, such as education, job training, and/or substance-abuse treatment.