Texas needs to imprison fewer people, and should change incentives to accomplish this.
Texas is a leader in how many of our neighbors we imprison, largely due to uneven application of the laws, and due to unnecessarily strict laws on certain things. Members of communities that have less political power tend to have harsher outcomes when encountering our criminal justice system. This is especially pronounced in the case of black Texans, but also Hispanic Texans. This is largely the legacy of slavery, voter disenfranchisement in various forms, legislative inertia, and more recently, the profit motive.
Growing attention is being paid to something called evidence-based policing. This promising approach is more systematic, and therefore less biased, in assessing which policies and incentives are more effective. It stands to reason that increased law enforcement staffing from the policed communities themselves is likely to lead to better outcomes for everyone involved. This should also improve the stress levels that have contributed to the record levels of suicide seen nowadays amongst cops on the street. Everybody benefits.
Texas should follow the lead of California with a moratorium on new for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers. Existing for-profit facilities should be phased out over time.
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