Questions About Texas Sentencing As Crime Rises

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Texas State Prison. Photo by Ephien via Flickr


Those who advocate against “tough on crime” policies cite Texas as the prime example of a place where sentencing regimes are more lenient for non-violent offenders, mostly in the drug trade. Chuck Devore and Randy Petersen of the Texas Public Policy Foundation maintain that the results of criminal justice reforms have been: “reduced recidivism, lower costs, and a state-wide crime rate reduced to levels not seen since 1968.” The state’s crime statistics don’t paint such a rosy picture of the state’s practices, contends Sean Kennedy in Real Clear Policy.

In Texas’s largest cities, data from the police departments show a significant rise in the past year, much more than can be accounted for by population growth. Violent crime reports over the last year have risen in the five largest cities (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth) by 14 percent, according to data from the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association. Recent data suggest that the previous two decades of crime declines may be reversing. Texas’ “smart on crime” approach has not changed that trajectory, maintains Kennedy. Reductions in spending on corrections have strained Texas’s ability to hold the individuals that do deserve to remain behind bars and to monitor those that have been released. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice believes that this will increase recidivism.


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