Saturday, April 8, 2017

Alabama: See Texas

Jonathan Haggerty, Koch Fellow and Technology Policy Research Associate at the R Street Institute, says Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's initiative to consolidate the state’s 14 prisons into 4 mega-prisons will cost taxpayers "about $800 million." Haggerty guesses this is not the most "cost effective way" to handle "Alabama’s disastrous criminal justice system."

Instead Alabama "should consider an alternative model for reform pioneered by Texas." There, legislators reconsidered "placing first-time, nonviolent drug offenders in prison — making them more likely to adapt to the hardened prison culture and reoffend once out on release." Instead, such persons were allowed users to "forego prison if they agreed to comprehensive supervision, drug testing, and treatment."

Texas also focused on replacing "severe sentencing" for "technical violations" of probation or parole with graduated sanctions and "rehabilitation programs for drug users and the mentally ill." The results? Texas has "saved taxpayers over $3 billion, and crime rates have plummeted to a 49-year low." Recidivism "is dropping and the state has been able to close three prisons." Haggerty writes:
The financial and human consequences of a prison and jail system teeming with bodies prompted Texas to make comprehensive changes, and it caught on like wildfire throughout the country. “Utah, Alabama and Nebraska have all passed comprehensive sentencing and corrections reforms; West Virginia took steps to reduce incarceration of juveniles in their state for misdemeanor or status offenses, and Alaska began major work on a second wave of reforms," according to Texas Rep. Jerry Madden. 
See full story here.

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