The Road to Reform for Texas’s Broken Criminal Justice System

By September 19, 2017Criminal Justice Reform

Too many people in the United States are behind bars and Texas is no exception. America has the highest per capita prison population in the world, beating out countries like Russia and China. Since the 1980s, the prison population has exploded, growing nearly 800 percent.

As of 2017, Texas remains among the top ten states with the highest incarceration rates in the country. A study from the Texas Public Policy Foundation reports the average cost per inmate in Texas is $18,500.

Criminal Justice Reform Could Remove Barriers to Opportunity for a Whole Generation

The incarceration crisis disproportionately hurts our generation. Of the over 2 million people in prison in the United States, around 40 percent of the prison population are young Americans.

A criminal record follows young adults long after they have been released from prison. A conviction can hurt a young person’s ability to find housing, get a job, complete an education and build a better life for themselves.

Faced with these barriers to opportunity, many young adults with a criminal record return to a life of crime following their time in incarceration. This can create a “cycle of recidivism” where people spend the rest of their lives in and out of prison.

Reforms to Texas’s criminal justice system would reduce crime and expand opportunity instead of putting a generation behind bars.

By refocusing on justice system on rehabilitating young adults, we can make it easier for former inmates to become contributing members of society.

Civil Asset Forfeiture and Criminal Justice Reform

Civil asset forfeiture reform is also essential to improving the lives of all Texans. Current civil asset policies allow law enforcement officials to seize private property they suspect to be connected to a crime. Often the property remains in the hands of law enforcement, even when the owner is not charged with a crime.

States like New Hampshire have led the charge by reforming civil asset forfeiture laws and protecting citizens from unlawful seizure of private property and serve as a positive example for other states.

Criminal Justice Reform in Texas

Texas is showing promising signs of reform, too.

In 2007, the Texas Legislature considered building more than 17,000 additional prison beds over five years, at a cost of $1.12 billion to construct and maintain. Instead, Texas allocated $241 million on treatment-oriented programs for non-violent offenders and improve treatment programs in prison.

Following this and other reforms, between 2007 and 2015, the Texas incarceration rate fell by 17 percent and the crime rate dropped 27 percent.

By supporting criminal justice reform, all Texans will have a better chance to attain meaningful employment, support their families and have a positive impact on their communities.

You can join the movement by signing this petition to show your support for criminal justice reform here in Texas.