Citing Texas criminal justice activist Marc Levin’s comment that, “for most nonviolent offenders, community-based initiatives are much cheaper and have much better outcomes,” the Austin American-Statesman editorializes that members of the state legislature should pay attention as they prepare for the 2013 session. Legislators will be asked to fund more treatment programs that can be used as an alternative to prison in cases involving nonviolent crimes, as well as funding a 2011 law that provides financial incentives for counties to limit the number of felons they send to state prisons. The incentives would be used to pay for local corrections programs.
Diverting nonviolent offenders who pose no threat to the community makes space available to hold people who really need to be separated from the rest of us, says the newspaper. “Prisons should be reserved for the worst of the worst, the violent criminals, murderers, child molesters we should definitely be afraid of. We have a lot of other inmates in there that could probably be housed someplace else, at less cost,” said state Sen. John Whitmire. The newspaper says a recent drop in the state prison population total may not hold, but prison diversion programs have earned public trust and support.