Tough on Crime Texas Rethinks Its Stance on Criminal Justice

By Brock Benjamin
Founding Attorney

How would a rehabilitative approach to drug crimes impact incarceration rates?

Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, with nearly 900 out of every 100,000 people in jail.  Texas has earned itself a tough on crime reputation, leading the country in executions since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.  In recent years, however, Texas lawmakers on both party sides are starting to see a need for reform. The state’s rising prison population threatens to exceed the current number of prisons in the state, and costs are outpacing resources.  One suggestion to decrease incarceration rates is moving towards a more rehabilitative approach for drug offenders.

Texas’ Prison Population is the Largest in the Nation  

During the 15-year period ending in 2007, the prison population in the state of Texas tripled.  Lawmakers recognized that to continue to arrest citizens at these rates would lead to a simply unsustainable prison population.  Recognizing the problem, lawmakers took some action to ease incarceration rates, leading to 12,000 fewer current inmates than there were in 2012.  However, the prison population remains the highest in the nation, with 145,000 people currently in prison.

The bulk of these incarcerations stem from drug offenses.  While many other states have moved to drug reform, allowing low level drug offenders to complete probation and drug rehabilitation rather than face incarceration, Texas continues to arrest.  The state incarcerates some 7,000 people every year for low level drug possession crimes.

Part of the problem is that Texas’ drug rehabilitation alternative program was never properly funded or implemented.  This could soon change. Lawmakers, conservative and liberal alike, are urging a shift away from strict incarceration and towards rehabilitation of drug offenders.  By diverting drug offenders from the prison system and into treatment programs, the prison population remains lower, while the drug offenders receive the treatment they need.  With proper treatment, drug offenders are far less likely to end up right back in the system.

Anyone charged with a drug crime should retain the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who will advocate for their best outcome.  With shifting views on criminal justice, the time is ripe for alleged drug offenders to seek and receive an alternative to incarceration.  Contact a Texas criminal defense lawyer to get started mounting your defense today.

About the Author
Brock Benjamin is board-certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  His practice is primarily state and federal criminal law and appeals.Brock 

Posted in: Drug Criminal Defense