When Our Correctional System Fails to Correct
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
June 25, 2007
As a County Commissioner observing an acute jail space shortage, I am reminded of a legislative experience I had in the 1980's, being short on prison space. I did not stay in the House long enough to attempt to craft a solution to prison space shortage, but I know the job is beyond any one person. But I am in my ninth year on Commissioner's Court and will continue to be for at least three and a half years. So I have time to roll up my sleeves and get to work, no matter the seeming impossibility of this task!
Remember every 400 inmates costs Bexar County taxpayers $8 million and we regularly have 4,000 inmates which costs us $80 million annually. Here of late, we have had 4,400 to 4,600 inmates. This is expected to cost us $90 million annually. Spending all this money would be worth it if inmates were being corrected.
- Nearly two-thirds of released prisoners are expected to be re-arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of release.
- Such high recidivism rates translate into thousands of new crimes each year, at least half of which can be averted through improved prisoner reentry efforts.
- In 2002, two million people were incarcerated in federal or state prisons.
- Nearly 700,000 people are released from prison to communities nationwide each year. (97% of inmates going to prison, come out)
Treating Substance Abuse and Mental Health Problems
- 70-80% of offenders re-entering the community have histories of drug or alcohol abuse.
- It is estimated that as many as 84% of criminals were under the influence of drugs/alcohol around the time of their offense.
- An increasing number of offenders have mental health problems.
- If treatment is not sought or available upon release, relapse is likely.
Saving Taxpayer Dollars
- Significant portions of state budgets are now invested in the criminal justice system.
- The average cost of incarcerating a prisoner is $22,650 per inmate, per year, with some states spending as much as $44,000 per inmate, per year.
- According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, expenditures on corrections alone increased from $9 billion in 1982 to $44 billion in 1997.
- These figures do not include the cost of arrest and prosecution, nor do they take into account the cost to victims.
Strengthening Families and Communities
- One of the most significant costs of prisoner reentry is the impact on children and communities. Between 1991 and 1999, the number of children with a parent in a federal or state correctional facility increased by more than 100%, from approximately 900,000 to approximately 2,000,000.
- A candid observer of our system can easily see that our correctional system is broken. This is why the President and the Congress are looking to this bill as a part of a serious solution to crowded prisons and repeat offenders!