A new report by a conservative think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, argues that Texas jails aren’t meeting their goal of helping to reduce crime by intensively treating short-term, nonviolent inmates, and it recommends that judges no longer be able to sentence felons to state jails without a rehabilitation plan, the Texas Tribune reports. The foundation says those convicted of nonviolent felonies and normally sentenced to months in a state-operated jail should instead be released with community supervision. That can include treatment programs, community service, strictly enforced probation conditions, and the threat of incarceration if certain conditions are violated.
Jeanette Moll, who authored the report, said that the people who commit these crimes, which are normally financial or drug-related, are seldom dangerous and don’t need to be automatically incarcerated. “They have a job, they have a family, they have a community,” she said. “Putting them in a state jail is going to make them lose all of that.” Sen. John Whitmire, who in 1993 proposed the legislation that created the state jail system to relieve overcrowding in state prisons, said, “State jails were about intense treatment and education, or 'get in get out.’ The problem is now people getting in and out without much treatment and education.”