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Texas Has a Lot of People in Prison—Why?

The state is spending billions on keeping people behind bars.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) reports that, as of July 2016, 146,843 individuals are incarcerated in Texas prisons. This means that, if the Texas’ prison population were a city, it would be it’s 20th largest. However, the TDCJ $3.4 billion operations budget would be on par with the largest cities in Texas. So, this leaves everyone asking the question, why is Texas spending billions each year to keep people locked up?

Texas’ problem goes in line with many other states across the country that has led to the U.S. being responsible for housing about one-fourth of the world’s prisoners. Many attribute a large growth in the U.S. prison population to misguided policies such as the “three strikes law.” This law mandated life sentences for those convicted of a felony after two prior convictions, including drug crimes. This focus on punishment as opposed to rehabilitation contributed to a countrywide prison population increasing from half a million to more than 2.2 million over the past three decades.

Other factors contributing to the substantial numbers of people incarcerated in Texas include:

  • Minimum sentencing guidelines
  • Mandatory time served requirements
  • Zero-tolerance drug crime policies

To try and combat the expensive problem of having overpopulated prisons, Texas is working towards more rehabilitative and alternate sentencing programs. The state is putting options for inmates to receive treatment while in the prison sentences. Additionally, lawmakers are putting measures in place that would help prevent parolees committing technical violations from winding back up behind bars.

There is also the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment program (SAFP) that provides a drug treatment program in lieu of prison time for offenders in need of intensive substance abuse treatment. This along with halfway houses and specialty courts that focus specifically on criminal cases involving people with mental health or substance abuse issues is all to try and prevent people from winding up back in jail.

If you are facing criminal charges in Texas, you need to contact Board Certified Criminal Law specialist, attorney J. Michael Price II. Attorney Price is here to help you fight all charges and, when necessary, help you explore alternate sentencing options that Texas is now making available. Contact Mike today to schedule your free case evaluation.

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