Tags: US State Facts | Voting Rights | Texas | incarceration rates

Rates of Incarceration in Texas

By    |   Thursday, 03 Dec 2015 11:04 PM

Texas has more prisoners than any other state. For every 100,000 residents of The Lone Star State, 602 of them are in prison. In the latest numbers available from The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit criminal justice policy analysis group, Texas had 226,829 inmates in its prisons and jails.

A prison-building boom in the 1990s made the prison system in Texas the biggest in the country. "If Texas were a country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world, easily surpassing that of the United States and Russia, the next two finishers, and would be seven times that of the next biggest prison system in China," reporter John Moritz wrote in a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2000.

However, the tide has turned in recent years. Tighter state budgets, lower crime rates and changes in sentencing laws and public opinion have reversed the trend, The New York Times reported.

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The prison population in Texas has decreased by about 5,000 inmates its peak in 2010, The Washington Post reported. "The state still executes more people than any other – 10 so far this year [2015] – but crime rates have fallen markedly," the Post reported in 2014. The state is shutting down some of its prisons.

In popular culture, prison reform has popped up as an issue even celebrities are involved with in an effort to curb mass incarceration. In April 2015, Grammy-winner John Legend launched a "Free America" campaign to end mass incarceration and visited a Texas prison to meet with lawmakers to discuss ways to improve the criminal justice system.

"Texas is always going to be important to any kind of movement that's hoping to make change in America because Texas is such a big state," Legend told The Texas Tribune, "It is really a leading state when it comes to a lot of things, but you don't want to be a leader in the area of incarceration. You want to be the leader in the area of reforming it. We actually are seeing initiatives in Texas to think more smartly about incarceration and the way we deal with crime. We're going to try to support some of those efforts that are already ongoing."

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Empty prison bunks in Texas are beginning to teach the state a lesson about its incarceration rates, Forbes magazine reported in 2013: "The lesson to be learned is that we had a criminal justice system in Texas created to fill prisons, and now we don't, because we figured out it was too expensive to lock everyone up," Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which cautioned against the prison-building boom during the 1990s, told the magazine. "We built beds to stimulate economic development. That's over."

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Texas has more prisoners than any other state. For every 100,000 residents of The Lone Star State, 602 of them are in prison. In the latest numbers available from The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit criminal justice policy analysis group, Texas had 226,829 inmates.
Texas, incarceration rates
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2015-04-03
Thursday, 03 Dec 2015 11:04 PM
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