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Is it Time for a Change in Texas’ State Jail System?

Some Lawmakers Think Modifications are Needed to Lower Recidivism Rates

In 1993, Texas made history (and drew the attention of the entire country) by establishing a state jail system designed to offer specialized treatment to certainmates in order to lower their risk of recidivism and encourage them to become productive members of society. The program was specifically aimed at inmates convicted of a:

  • Nonviolent drug-related offense
  • Relatively minor theft crime
  • First-offense
  • Fourth-degree felony

For several years, the state jail system seemed to be working, lowering an original recidivism rate for these petty criminals from an all-time high of 60 percent to a more manageable 34 percent. Keep in mind, however, that even the 34 percent rate is much higher than inmates coming out of the state prison system, which averages a rate of 28 percent.

The mission of the state jails – to rehabilitate and treat the so-called “confinees,” giving them coping and technical skills necessary to rejoin society at a lower cost to the taxpayers – has shifted in recent years as budget woes have plagued the state. Various educational and rehabilitative-type programs have been cut to save money, essentially leaving little difference between prisons and jails, both being aimed at punishment and confinement.

Still, some state lawmakers and government officials (like police officers and prosecutors) appreciate the contributions that state jails have made to the Texas criminal justice system as a whole. They credit the smaller, minimum-security facilities with having saved the state millions of dollars by housing thousands of nonviolent offenders that would have otherwise been placed amidst hardened, violent inmates.

For now, the Texas state jail system is intact. If you or a loved one has been charged with (or are being investigated for) a criminal offense that could land you in one of the many jails across our state, consulting a skilled criminal defense attorney is an invaluable step towards protecting your legal rights and fighting to keep your freedom.