In 2007, the state of Texas implemented a series of reforms put together by the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments to try to find ways to reduce the incarceration rate and, thusly, reduce expenditures. This became known as the “Texas Model” and was widely hailed as a total success.
A recent study has found that the jubilation at the projects successes was actually a myth. Not only did the rate of incarceration rise, but the racial disparity in the prison system in Texas continued to be grossly apparent.
The recommendations that were implemented included prison-diversion programs, sentencing reforms, and special courts, while parole reform was rejected. Five years after these policies were implemented no change in the number of prisoners occurred, and in 2013 the number incarcerated increased.
The purpose of the program was to emphasize treatment ahead of sending people to prison, but that is not what occurred. It was also discovered that 35 percent of prisoners in the state are black despite the fact that blacks make up less than 13 percent of the total population.
The problem with implementing any new policies is that it is the same old people running the system who are asked to implement these changes. People returning to prison is job security for wardens, guards, treatment staff, and all the others that are involved in the system, and they are not going to do anything to reduce the prison population as it could mean that they will be forced to find some other form of employment.
While it is great that Texas is looking to make sweeping changes that could help to reduce their prison population, the fact that this did not succeed should not be a surprise to anyone.