Texas is one of the states with the highest percentages of its population behind bars.
Almost 1.6 million people in the United States is currently imprisoned. That means that 1 in 200 Americans are serving time in federal and local prisons right now. Overcrowding in prisons is a nationwide issue for the U.S. Additionally, the cost of imprisoning this amount of people comes at a high cost. At the federal level, the U.S. spends around $7 billion for costs associated with operating federal prisons. While this is a significant monetary investment, it does not seem to be doing much to prevent crime. Four out of ten people who leave federal prison end up being re-arrested or having their supervised release revoked within 3 years.
While the rate at which convicted individuals are ordered to serve time varies state by state, some states have become notorious for their willingness to send people to jail. Texas is one such state and ranks sixth among the states with the highest percentage of people in prison. Above and beyond this, 278 Texas inmates are on death row. Only California and Florida have more death row inmates.
The top ten most common offenses among Texas prison inmates are as follows:
- Burglary of a Habitation
- Possession of Controlled Substance (less than 1 gram)
- Aggravated Robbery
- Driving While Intoxicated (third or greater offense)
- Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child
- Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Burglary of a Building
- Possession of a Controlled Substance (Between 1 and 4 grams)
- Theft of Property (between $1,500 and $20,000)
Texas is taking some steps to try and reduce the amount of its population that is imprisoned with certain alternated sentencing programs. You may have noticed drug and alcohol crimes taking a prominent place in the above list. Jail diversion programs, currently gaining popularity, are hoping to address this. These programs provide jail alternatives to certain offenders found to have alcohol and substance abuse issues. Eligibility for the program is mostly based on the specific criminal charge and the individual’s history of substance abuse. Some offenders will be offered reduced or no jail time if they are willing to enter rehabilitative programs for their addictions.
Additionally, a new Texas law also seeks to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals in Texas. SB 1913 was signed into law by the Texas governor and became effective on September 1, 2017. The law gives judges authority to ask a defendant if they are too poor to pay unpaid fines. In the past, unpaid fines could lead to jail time. Now, the court can determine whether an individual is not in a financial position to pay those fines and can order community service as an alternative.
Overcrowding in jails is expensive. It also puts the safety of correctional officers and the inmates in jeopardy. Spending more money on jails also limits available funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs shown to have a significant impact on recidivism rates.
If you have been charged with a criminal defense, Scott M. Brown and Associates are here to defend you. We fight for the best interests of our clients. Call us or contact us online. We have three convenience office locations. Scott M. Brown & Associates proudly serves Angleton, Pearland, Houston, and Webster.