Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition Announces Criminal Justice Reform Agenda
AUSTIN, TX— The Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition announced its criminal justice reform priorities for the 85th Texas Legislative Session on Wednesday, including expanding reentry education and job training, expanding treatment alternatives to incarceration for people who are drug-addicted, ending the exclusion of 17 year-olds from Texas’ juvenile justice system and eliminating Texas’ troubled Driver Responsibility Program.
The Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition (TSCC) was founded in 2014 by the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, specifically in response to Texas’ ineffective and costly overreliance on incarceration. In 2015, TSCC invited the Christian Life Commission and Prison Fellowship to join the Executive Committee.
“We represent groups that do not agree on every item of criminal justice policy that will be brought before the legislature this session, but we collectively stand behind each of these five items identified today,” said Derek Cohen, Deputy Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice.
“Despite our progress in recent years, Texas’ criminal justice system in Texas is not as smart as it should be,” said Texas Association of Business President, Bill Hammond.
Traci Berry, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement and Education with Goodwill Central Texas, announced that the coalition would be working to create a new reentry vocational pilot program specifically to address the high rate of recidivism in Texas’ state jails.
“Improving education and job opportunities has the recognized effects of reducing crime, making our communities safer, and reducing barriers to success,” said Berry. In lieu of a full term in a state jail, the program would require a minimum of 90 days in a community supervision program that includes rehabilitation, education, and career and technical training. By targeting state jail offenders, this program aims to rehabilitate state jail and prison populations with the highest recidivism rates.
Jim Forbes, Communications Director at Prison Fellowship, announced that the coalition would be working to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Texas from 17 to 18 years old. Texas is one of a handful of states that automatically prosecutes and sentences 17 year-olds as adults. “We need to end the exclusion of 17 year-olds from the juvenile justice, because it will reduce crime and protect parental rights.”
Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas, announced that the coalition would be working to eliminate Texas’ Driver Responsibility Program. She also said the Coalition would work to make evidence-based reforms to probation, such as capping the amount of time individuals on probation and parole would spend back in prison after a technical violation. “It doesn’t make any sense to send someone back to jail for years for being tardy to a probation appointment.”
Douglas Smith, a Policy Analyst with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, announced that the coalition would be working to expand treatment as an alternative to incarceration for drug addicts. “We can’t afford not to treat addiction.”
Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition: The Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition is the largest statewide effort working to make Texas' criminal justice system smarter, safer, and more cost effective. The Coalition brings together businesses, faith organizations, nonprofit organizations, and the state’s most prominent conservative and progressive organizations to pursue a plan to address, reduce, and prevent crime. The Coalition works with lawmakers to safely reduce our costly reliance on over-incarceration. Members of the Coalition include the Texas Association of Business, Goodwill of Central Texas, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the Christian Life Commission, and Prison Fellowship.