Texas leads US in incarceration growth
Despite lackluster record on crime, one in
five new prisoners added nationally during the 1990s were added
One out of 20 adult Texans now under criminal
The Texas prison system grew faster than any other prison system
in the country during the 1990s, adding nearly one out of every
5 prisoners to the nation's prison boom. In a new study to be
released by the Washington, DC-based Justice Policy Institute
on August 29th, the criminal justice think tank found that one
out of every 20 adults in Texas were either in prison, jail,
on probation or on parole. There are more people in prison in
Texas than in any other state, and Texas' incarceration rate
is second only to Louisiana.
"Out of every 20 adult Texans you meet,
one is under criminal justice control," stated Vincent Schiraldi,
the Institute's Director and report co-author. "The sheer
numbers of people in prison and jail in Texas are signs of system
fixated on punishment, and devoid of compassion."
Other significant findings reported in the
- Texas just earned the dubious distinction
of having the largest prison population in the country (163,190),
surpassing the prison population of California (163,067), which
has 13 million more citizens than Texas. The Lone Star State
has more than 700,000 of its citizens under criminal justice
- The average annual growth of Texas' prison
population during the 1990s (11.8%) was not only the highest
growth in the nation, but was almost twice the average annual
growth of the other US states (6.1%) during the 1990s.
- If Texas were a country, it would have the
highest incarceration rate in the world, easily surpassing the
United States and Russia, the next two finishers, and seven times
that of the next biggest prison system in China.
- Blacks in Texas are incarcerated at seven
times the rate of whites, and nearly one in three young African
American men in Texas is under some form of criminal justice
control. The incarceration rate for Blacks in Texas is 63% higher
than the national incarceration rate for blacks.
- Despite adding more than 100,000 prisoners
this decade, Texas' crime rate has declined much more slowly
than other large states. From 1995 to 1998, Texas' crime rate
fell (-5.1%) at half the national average (-10%), and the least
of any of the nation's five largest states [California (-23%),
Florida (-5.9%), Illinois (-9.0%), or New York (-21.1%)].
- There are 89,400 people being incarcerated
in Texas for non-violent crimes. Standing alone amongst the states,
Texas' non-violent prison population represents the second largest
incarcerated population in the country (after California), and
is larger than the entire prisoner population (violent, and nonviolent)
of the United Kingdom-a country of 60 million people, or New
York, the nation's third largest state.
The Institute drew a specific comparison between
Texas and New York, the state closest in size to Texas. During
the 1990s, Texas added more prisoners to its prison system (+98,081)
than New York's entire prison population (73,233) by some 24,848
prisoners. This means that the number of prisoners that Texas
added during the 1990s was 34% higher than New York's entire
prison population. While Texas had the fastest growing prison
system in the country during the 1990s, New
York had the third slowest growing prison population in the US.
Over all, during the 1990s, Texas added five times as many prisoners
as New York did (18,001).
Yet since 1995, the study found that New York's decline in crime
was four times greater than Texas' decline in crime. Texas' current
incarceration rate (1,035 per 100,000) is 80% higher than New
York's (574 per 100,000), yet Texas' crime rate (5,111 per 100,000)
is 30% higher than New York's (3,588 per 100,000). In 1998, Texas'
murder rate was 25% higher than New York State's rate.
"If locking more people up really reduced
crime, Texas should have the lowest crime rate in the country,"
says Jason Ziedenberg, Senior Researcher at the Institute and
report co-author. "The cost of having 1 in 3 young black
men under criminal justice control is a steep price to pay for
the states' lackluster crime declines."
Texas Tough: An Analysis of Incarceration
and Crime Trends in the Lone Star State
is available for review at: www.cjcj.org/texas