Texas Study Examines True Cost of Budget Cuts for Criminal Justice Issues

It seems that every state is scrambling for ways to cut the budget this year and Texas is no different. While many are looking to their huge corrections budgets to take funding away from, a new study in Texas took a long hard look at proposed cuts there and what they would mean, and cost in the long run.

The proposed budget would cut $600 million from the corrections budget over the next two years. The majority of these cuts would take funding from rehabilitation, probation, and treatment programs. While $600 million is a big short term savings, the newly released study from the Justice Center and Council of State Governments shows just what sort of impact these cuts would have in the long run.

It points out such programs have saved taxpayers around $600 million over the past four years in diverting offenders from prison. By cutting those very programs, it’s estimated the state would be short around 12,000 prison beds within the two coming years.

It’s a typical argument over corrections spending that cutting programs would reduce short term costs but increase long term cost to taxpayers as recidivism would rise and the need for prison beds would increase. However, there’s rarely a up to date study with concrete numbers to back this up.

According to the American-Statesman lawmakers were surprised at the number of projected prison bed shortages detailed in the report. But it isn’t clear if this surprise will translate into a reevaluation of their proposed budget cuts.

While the House’s proposed budget would leave the state short 12,000 in coming years, the Senate’s is slightly less, running the state short 9,600 beds.  These shortages come as a result of increased incarcerations due to lack of alternatives paired with the closing and elimination of some current beds as they suggest eliminated the Central Unit prison and some pre-parole beds.

The state stands to potentially undo the progress they’ve made on recidivism in the past few years, reducing it and prison commitments and even reducing the crime rate. One of the author’s of the study states “The options are either to reduce the cuts or to make policy changes that will result in fewer people going to prison.”

Simply removing the money and programming won’t deliver the long term savings needed—sort of like robbing Peter to pay Paul the debt will only be shifted.

Incarceration alternatives and probation programs vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you are facing criminal charges in Texas, the only way to know for certain what your options are is to consult with a professional. Contact our attorneys today to discuss your case and the charges against you.

 

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