Friday, April 11, 2014

Alert: Prison Crisis In Europe Might Hit Texas if They Continue Reforms

Austin, Texas  —  Currently the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has 153,000 inmates incarcerated.  Almost half of those inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes and the majority of these inmates are eligible for parole.

Since the 80's Texas has seen thousands of harmless activities evolve into being classified as crimes that aren't typically common law crimes such as murder, rape, burglary, or theft.  Texas now has over 1,700 known statutory laws. 

In 2013 PolitiFact conducted an investigation into a comment Austin blogger Scott Henson told the Austin Post that, "there are 11 different felonies you can commit with an oyster."  The comment was found to be true, which would make one wonder how serious of a situation could crimes involve oysters be if we are classifying them as felonies. 

Many crimes such as business regulations and licensing requirements should be handled civilly and not in a criminal court room.  Fines are effective means to insure compliance with laws of a regulatory nature. 

In recent years Texas has been able to reduce their prison population enough to close three prisons by increased use of community supervision, reducing recidivism, and increasing parole.

Texans don't need to give themselves a pat on the back too quickly.  The Netherlands is a country of 17 million, about 2/3rds the size of Texas.  Their inmate population has dropped from 15,000 in 2008 to currently around 9,710 inmates.  Now their biggest prison issue is not inmate over crowding, but officer overcrowding with more officers than inmates.  As of last month there were just 9,710 inmates compared to the 9,914 correctional officers. 

Large prison sentences plague Texas, as people change and mature with age, their bodies seem to age quicker than their sentence.  Texas will face a fiscal nightmare unless the legislature corrects this problem.  Texas should learn a lesson from the Netherlands by reforming their sentencing.  Keeping inmates past their work prime will only insure they become wards of the state, adding additional financial constraints to an already taxed system. 

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