October is Crime Prevention Month, and I am reminded that not long ago people spoke of the “Texas Model” as a purely punitive approach to criminal justice. Decades of steady prison growth consumed an ever-increasing percentage of the general budget. Even with the nation’s highest incarceration rate, Texas’ cities and towns were still plagued with violence and property crime. We were getting a very poor return on our investment in criminal justice and corrections.
In 2007, the Legislature was faced with a tough decision. The biennial Legislative Budget Board projections called for an increase of more than 17,000 beds by the year 2012. This continuation of poor policy would have added an estimated $2.7 billion to the state budget over a five-year period. Under the law and policy of the day, lawmakers had to either approve the expansion — in a time where spending was already growing at an alarming rate — or begin irresponsibly releasing inmates from correctional facilities back into our communities.
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Rollins is president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.