More Freedom for Less Money
Just Liberty can’t take all the credit, because we work in bipartisan coalition with many other organizations (Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Fair Defense Project, Austin Justice Coalition, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, ACLU of Texas and more). That said, there are a few victories where the Just Liberty team has played a key role.
We are very proud to have been part of a multi-session effort to not only repeal the program, but do so in a way designed to benefit all Texans. Repeal bills have been filed every session for the past decade or more, and in 2017 repeal came close to passage. But that bill threatened to replicate the same problems that were created by the DRP, so we opposed it and suggested another way. In 2019 the bill authors picked up key recommendations and the bill sailed through both chambers.
But Texas’ population has boomed over the intervening years, so the overall incarceration rate has declined significantly. In 1999, Texas had 149,684 prisoners. But the state’s population back then was 20.4 million. By 2018, the state population was up to 28.7 million. Texas’ incarceration rate per 100,000 people was 734; in 2018, it was 505. That’s a 31 percent decline. Texas got a LOT bigger while our prison population actually declined. Crime declined too.
But there’s more. Ten years ago more than 700,000 Texans were in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole. Texas had the nation’s highest overall rate of people under the control of the corrections system. Now. after huge population growth, the overall number is 684,000 and Texas ranks about average. The biggest drop? People under direct supervision of a probation officer for a property crime — thanks to reforms lead by the Texas Public Police Foundation and worked hard by members of the Just Liberty team.
Texans routinely “choose” a jail stay as a form of payment for their tickets, a choice that is costly to both taxpayers and drivers. Meanwhile jurisdictions that instead negotiate payments that people can afford actually collect more of the unpaid traffic ticket revenue than Texas Counties do relying heavily on warrant roundups and arrest. So we have a long way to go, but we’re happy to take a big first step.