Texas leads US in incarceration growth

Despite lackluster record on crime, one in five new prisoners added nationally during the 1990s were added in Texas

One out of 20 adult Texans now under criminal justice control

Washington, DC: 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 study include:

  • 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 control.
  • 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

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