TX Prison Count: “We’re Being Congratulated for Not Getting Worse Anymore”


Texas justifiably gets credit in national media for “smart on crime” probation reforms from 2007, but three legislative sessions have passed since then and few in the press seem to have noticed that little has been done since then, says Scott Henson of the Grits for Breakfast blog. Texas still has the nation’s largest prison population, by far. California has significantly reduced its prison population, though not to the extent required by a federal court order.

Texas’ incarceration levels finally appear to have plateaued. Crime rates have for the most part continued their two decade plunge while the overall population boomed. That expanding denominator partly explains why one in 27 Texans were under supervision of the justice system last year, compared with one in 22 in 2008. Henson says that even with prison-population reductions in Texas, the state’s “incarceration levels are still completely over the top. We’re just being congratulated for not getting worse anymore! When you hear people say the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners, Texas is still driving that train.”

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