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Tppf Report Texas State Jail System Nov 2012

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by Jeanette Moll
Policy Analyst

Key Points
•	 State jails were
envisioned as a cheaper,
more effective way to
rehabilitate low level
adult offenders and
prevent them from a
continued life of crime.
•	 The key to this vision was
short terms in state jails
focused on rehabilitation
and drug treatment,
followed by community
•	 Today, state jails cost 90
percent of what prisons
cost Texas taxpayers, and
actually produce much
worse recidivism rates.
•	 By changing state law
to require community
supervision for state
jail felons, state jails can
be returned to their
original purpose, as both
a sanction and integral
part of the community
supervision system, with
a focus on rehabilitation
and reducing recidivism.

November 2012

Center for Effective Justice

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails

How to Reform Texas’ Expensive, Ineffective State Jail System


tate jails in Texas are a part of the prison
system. State jails are managed by the state,
but unlike prisons, almost exclusively house inmates charged with low-level larceny and drug
possession crimes. State jails were designed to
be a low-cost alternative to prison, with dual
goals of reducing prison populations and reducing recidivism rates in low-risk defendants.
Unfortunately, state jails are universally failing in their objective. Almost as expensive as
prisons, with higher recidivism rates, state jails
merely cycle state jail felons in and out of the
jailhouse doors, doing little to reduce risks of
future criminality, but doing a great deal to burden Texas taxpayers.
This paper details the bad deal Texas taxpayers
get for the their state jails, both in high costs
and increased risks to the public safety, as well
as the ways the Texas Legislature can fix the
state jail system for good.

Executive Summary

In 1993, the Texas Legislature was faced with an
overcrowded prison system and prison population projections threatening to bust the state
budget. To address these issues, the Legislature
took a decisive step in the right direction by
creating a state jail system as an alternative to
the prison system for low-level offenders. The
Legislature sought—and found—a way to provide punishment for drug and minor property
crime offenders while alleviating the burden on
the prison system, and continuing to prioritize
public safety by implementing targeted treatment approaches to strike at the heart of the
crimes committed.

The Legislature specifically wanted to accomplish two goals: first, policymakers sought to
reserve prisons for violent, serious offenders,
ensuring sufficient beds existed to support long
sentences for these “worst of the worst,” and
capture the cost savings possible by prioritizing
prison bed space in this way. Second, however,
the Legislature also intended to address the
underlying issues for most low-level drug and
property offenders. Often described as part of
the continuum of options for judges, and with
rehabilitation as the state jail system’s cornerstone, state jails were created to be a distinctive
system from prisons.
This is no more evident than in the way these
facilities originally received offenders: judges
were permitted to sentence the new class of
state jail felons, low-level offenders, only to a
state jail term as a condition of probation supervision. It was envisioned that this would enable judges to maintain leverage over offenders
to promote compliance with the terms of supervision, as offenders would know that failure
to comply could result in a swift ticket to state
jail. In this sense, the concept was ahead of its
time, as drug courts and courts employing swift
and sure sanctions now use such ongoing oversight and the threat of jail time to cajole offenders to comply with the regimen of appearing in
court, taking drug tests, and participating in
Unfortunately, this plan had not been fully
implemented when the next two Legislatures
retreated from the bold steps taken by the 73rd
Legislature. The next two legislative sessions
generated alterations to the state jail system
prior to full implementation of the original
continued on next page

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails	

system, and without evidence of its effect on the criminal
justice system or public safety. These alterations removed
the character of state jails as part of the community supervision system and decreased the likelihood of rehabilitation or
supervision. By doing so, those Legislatures cemented their
status no longer as an alternative to the prison system, but
a substitute for the prison system. And that status remains
true today, with unfortunate consequences for taxpayers
and the public safety alike.
Today, 99.7 percent of state jail offenders each year are directly sentenced to a term of 6 to 24 months in a state jail
facility without any guarantee of rehabilitation or treatment
options based on their underlying criminal offense and with
no supervision in their community upon release. Today,
state jails cost only slightly less than prisons. Today, state jail
offenders recidivate more—and more quickly—than prisoners. Today, state jail offenders receive less targeted treatment than those supervised in their communities and even
those in the prison system.
As a result, Texas taxpayers shoulder the burden for two
prison systems in Texas, with poor results for state jail felons, and with significant effects on the public safety in Texas. Alleviating this burden and enhancing public safety is
possible by reinvigorating the original purpose behind the
state jail system.
Policymakers must make meaningful reforms to the state
jail system to restore the bold intent at their creation and
reshape these revolving-door lockups that now warehouse,
rather than correct, offenders. First, policymakers must remove the unqualified ability to directly sentence a state jail
felon to a term of months in such a facility without supervision or rehabilitation. Second, once the state jail system
is again part of the community supervision continuum, the
immense success Texas counties have shown with community supervision and treatment of felons can be applied to
state jail felons, both with in-house programming as well as
court-ordered treatment prior to and after a term is served
in the state jail system.
With careful policy reforms, state jails can be returned to
their original place in the system: an alternative to prison
that more efficiently rehabilitates low-level offenders at a
lower cost, giving Texas taxpayers and citizens what they
originally bargained for.


November 2012

The History of the State Jail System in Texas

In 1993, Texas policymakers began their session facing an
uphill battle with the prison system. Overcrowded prisons,
a federal order decreeing the current situation to be cruel
and unusual, and counties unable to continue housing state
inmates awaiting transfers put immense pressure on the system.1 Lawmakers were tasked with finding a solution that
would not only relieve the current overcrowding, but also
prevent continued population pressures on the system. One
of the solutions proposed and adopted was the creation of
an alternative to prison for low-level non-violent offenders,
deemed the state jail system.
The 73rd Legislature considered and passed two bills, Senate
Bill 532 and Senate Bill 1067. The former created the state
jail division, while the latter created the category of offenses
that would become state jail felonies.2 The selected offenses
were culled together by reclassifying offenses that were previously third degree felonies and some Class A misdemeanors.
The Legislature created state jails to not only permit longer
periods of time served for serious, violent offenders in Texas
prisons, but also to increase positive outcomes for low-level
drug and non-violent property offenders by providing an
array of programming to specifically address those issues.3
In fact, legislative reports make it quite clear: “[r]ehabilitation programming is meant to be the cornerstone of the
state jail system.”4
This rehabilitation was thought possible as state jails were a
part of the “community continuum,”5 able to provide lowcost community-based secure confinement when necessary and rehabilitation for low-level non-violent offenders,
usually found guilty of property or drug offenses.6 State
jails were meant to be an important part of the community
continuum, as they created a “structured environment” for
offenders who needed it to truly take hold of rehabilitation
programs or to sanction violations of their probation.7
To achieve this high rate of rehabilitation and desistance
from crime, state jail officials in the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice (TDCJ), in collaboration with the existing
community justice assistance division, were to create work
programs, rehabilitation opportunities, education systems,
and recreation on a 90-day cycle within the facilities.8 This
90-day cycle was key—and specific to state jails, as state

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November 2012		

jails were created with the intention that 90 days would
usually be the maximum normal term for a state jail offender.
This is because state jails, as part of the continuum, were
normally to be used as a condition of probation. As “part
of the available resources for judges who place defendants
under probationary supervision,”9 time served in a state jail
facility was an excellent tool for encouraging adherence to
rehabilitation goals or to punish violations of community
Judges had a few options for using state jails. At the outset, a state jail felony conviction automatically resulted in
probation for at least two years.10 Judges could, if they so
chose, require a state jail felon to serve 60 days of “up front
time” in a state jail; otherwise, defendants could be sent
to a state jail after violating a term of their probation, for
terms of 75 to 181 days. Or, if their community supervision was revoked, the original sentence was reinstated, and
the court retained jurisdiction for one year to evaluate the
offender’s progress and potentially reinstate community
Whether or not the system was effective at rehabilitating
low-level drug and property offenders, however, was never
determined. This is because prior to full implementation the
Legislature altered the state jail system. It previously stood
as a part of community corrections, a sanction and tool for
judges; two bills stripped it of this character and turned it
into an independent incarceration system, more akin to
prisons than community corrections.
In 1995, the Legislature introduced discretionary placement
on community supervision for state jail felons with one
previous felony conviction, and increased upfront time to
90 days.11 In 1997, the Legislature removed all mandatory
community supervision for state jail felons, permitting direct sentences to state jails in all cases.12 With these changes,
judges were no longer required to place a state jail felon on
community supervision, and a previously distinct tool for
probation enforcement was dissolved into the prison system.
Judges quickly used their new discretion and permission to
directly sentence state jail offenders. In fact, both judges and
offenders now prefer direct sentencing to a state jail.13 This		

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails.

likely is because judges see a state jail term as a “tougher”
sentence than community supervision, while offenders
would prefer a stint in a state jail rather than a longer period
of community supervision and the attendant requirements
and tracking a probationer in Texas undergoes. As a result,
today, out of 23,231 state jail offenders received into a state
jail facility in the 2011 fiscal year, all but 78 were directly
sentenced, and only 158 were ever released to community
The original model was not in place long enough to be evaluated, but we have clear outcomes for the current formulation of state jails: the result has been high rates of recidivism
and significant costs to taxpayers.

Today’s Problematic State Jails

State jails, originally created as an alternative to prisons, have
veered away from this intended purpose. No longer an alternative to prisons, state jails have also become increasingly
expensive and less effective in rehabilitation. Texas policymakers saw the possibility for state jails to provide less costly
incarceration and targeted, effective rehabilitation. Today,
state jails provide neither. The cost-per-day for incarceration rivals that of prisons, and the rehabilitative successes, as
measured by recidivism rates, is even worse than prisons. In
fact, for capacity reasons, about half of the offenders in state
jails now are not state jail felons, but those convicted of more
serious felonies placed in state jails for capacity purposes,
further illustrating the extent to which the state jail system
has dissolved into the broader prison system.15

Mounting Costs
One of the reasons lawmakers saw fit to create an alternative
placement for low-level offenders was the ability to incarcerate these offenders at a lower cost. Given the fewer risks
and shorter terms for these offenders, policymakers sought
to take advantage of the “cheaper operational cost than
prisons”16 when voting for the enabling legislation in 1993.
Today, however, state jails provide very little—if any—cost
In 2010, prison costs varied from $44.12 to $49.56 per day,
per offender,17 varying with the type of prison. State jail costs
rose to $43.03 per day in 2010, fully 87 to 97.5 percent of
the cost of a prison bed.18 Private state jails are operated at a
cheaper rate than state facilities, but still the costs in those facilities are over $30.73 per day, and only five of the state jails


Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails	

State jail inmates are
reincarcerated 23 percent
more often than prison
in Texas are operated privately (this cost figure does include
indirect administration costs, but does not include health
care or fixed costs associated with overall operation).19 Thus,
the cost savings once thought possible are barely realized, if
any still exist.
Interestingly, state jail costs for state-run facilities rose 38.5
percent between 1998 and 2010, leading to today’s mounting costs. However, private state jails were much more effective at controlling costs, as privately run facilities only
rose in cost 3.5 percent (from $29.69 per day to $30.73 per

Poor Rehabilitation and High Recidivism
Costs alone don’t provide the entire picture of the failing
state jail system. Generally, costs—even rising costs—are
commonplace in criminal justice systems, and a necessary
price to keep streets safe. Unfortunately, these rising costs
are failing to do just that: ensure the safety of Texas citizens.
This is because state jail inmates reoffend and are re-incarcerated at increasingly high rates, even higher than prison
State jail inmates released in 2007 were re-incarcerated 31.9
percent of the time after three years, with an average timeto-failure of 17 months.21 The rearrest rate for the 2006 cohort of state jail inmates was 64.2 percent. That means that
out of every three inmates released from a state jail, two
were rearrested and one of those was reincarcerated.
In contrast, according to the most recent data, only 26 percent of prison inmates were reincarcerated after three years
and 48.8 percent were rearrested.22 This is especially significant in light of the fact that prison inmates are convicted
of substantially more serious crimes than state jail inmates,
and often have longer records.


November 2012

Further, today’s high recidivism rates for state jail offenders are far greater than those in years past. In 2001, a study
of state jail offenders released in 1997 and 1998 tracked
re-incarceration within two years, and found that 24.7
percent of offenders in the 1997 cohort recidivated, while
19.4 percent of those released in 1998 were re-incarcerated
within two years.23 Interestingly, the report credited higher
rates of releases with supervision in 1997,24 and the subsequent technical violations, as the reason for the higher recidivism rates in 1997. The two-year recidivism rates based
solely on new offenses, excluding technical violations, was
higher for those released without supervision in 1997 and
These high recidivism rates are often sourced to the lack
of targeted rehabilitation provided in state jails. Part of the
original design of state jails was to provide intensive targeted
rehabilitation and programming to low-level offenders, cutting off the cyclical nature of criminality prior to it taking
hold in these offenders.
That rehabilitation focus has largely disappeared, and perhaps was never fully realized. As late as 1998, state jail inmates were still required to participate in six hours of programming every day, and the system reported over 70,000
hours of labor each month.26 By 2003, however, program-

Today’s State Jail Inmate
In Texas, there are 15 state jails owned and operated by
the state, and five state jails contracted out to private
operators. These 20 facilities received 23,231 offenders in the fiscal year 2011. Out of these offenders, 47.9
percent were property offenders, while 35.2 percent
were drug offenders. Both property and drug offenders
usually have a sentence of between 7 and 12 months.
The average sentence for all offenders was a little under 10 months.
The most common crime for property offenders was
larceny, the conviction for 48 percent of property offenders, followed by burglary, which made up 16.7 percent of property crimes. Drug offenders were almost
wholly convicted of possession, the crime of choice for
88 percent of drug offenders in state jails.
Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

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ming in state jails had entirely shut down due to “funding
constraints.”27 In 2007, in-facility substance abuse treatment
was initiated in select facilities—but only in six of Texas’ state
jails, at a cost of $7.04 per day in fiscal year 2010. Even that
programming lasts only 30 days, and at most 90 days, making up only a portion of the average state jail term.28 Only
3,907 offenders completed substance abuse treatment in a
state jail in the last year data was available, approximately
17 percent of all offenders.29 Notably, 64.7 percent of state
jail offenders were tested and found to be chemically dependent—a significantly higher proportion than those actually
receiving treatment.30
Today’s state jail programming is sporadic and lacks in participation, scope, and effectiveness. In addition, because
offenders are almost always directly sentenced to a term
in state jails, rather than as a condition of probation or as
up-front time on probation, there is little incentive for participation in rehabilitative programming. State jail terms are
served day-for-day, with no opportunity for early release,
leaving little encouragement, incentive, or ability to compel
participation or adherence to rehabilitation or programming.31

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails.

Recommendations for Reform: Statutory Fixes
for State Jail Sentencing

Today’s problematic state jails must be reformed to reduce
costs and increase the effectiveness as well as positive outcomes for public safety. The primary way to do so is to return the state jail system to its former state, a part of the
community supervision continuum of correctional tools.
The Texas Legislature in 1993 was decades ahead of its time,
using the state jail system to implement swift and sure sanctions for probationers before the Hawaii HOPE court model
was even a glimmer in Judge Steven Alm’s eye.33
Swift and sure sanctions have been proven effective by probation departments following the HOPE court’s lead, which
to this day achieves a more than 50 percent reduction in
probation revocations and reoffending, an 80 percent reduction in missed probation appointments, and an 86 percent reduction in positive drug tests.34

Recent legislation, enacted in 2011, modified this to some
degree by enabling most state jail felons to earn up to 20 percent of their term in good credit days by completing treatment, vocational, or educational programs while behind
bars.32 Although judges could use existing authority to put
them on “shock probation” for the remainder of the term,
such “shock probation” continues to be rarely used, including for the third of state jail offenders who have received this
new credit. The lack of availability of such programs is limiting the number of offenders who obtain the credit and even
those who do are typically discharged without supervision.

The key to swift and sure sanctions is the knowledge that
far tougher sanctions are immediately handed down upon
violation. As Judge Alm has explained, a small possibility of
a longer term in jail which might start months from the date
in question is far less of a deterrent than the clear understanding that one will go to jail this weekend if a drug test is
positive. Texas policymakers envisioned something similar
to the HOPE Court model for the state jail system almost
two decades ago, but today statutory changes are necessary
for the state jail system to act as a more effective sanction.
Instead of maintaining the leverage that a judge and probation department gain from ongoing oversight of an offender
and setting clear expectations as to what is required to avoid
flash incarceration in a state jail, those offenders now sent to
state jail typically never see the judge again and never come
in contact with the probation department.

This lack of programming has also contributed to the high
recidivism rates for state jail felons.* Especially in light of the
costs to house an offender in a state jail facility, this failure
to rehabilitate these low-level offenders is especially disconcerting.

By removing the 1995 and 1997 amendments to Section 15,
Article 42.12, that permitted judges to directly sentence state
jail felons to a term of years in a state jail facility without any
community supervision whatsoever, state jails could return
to their originally conceived status—an enhanced sanction

* Prison programming has been shown to reduce recidivism. For example, inmates in California’s in-prison substance abuse programs recidivated
at a rate 18.9 points lower than the general population. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, “In-Prison Substance Abuse Program Return to Prison Analysis,” 2009). In addition, a variety of drug treatment, cognitive-behavioral treatment, and basic and vocational education
in prisons were found to reduce recidivism risks between 5.1 and 12.6 percent. (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, “Evidence-Based Adult
Corrections Programs: What Works and What Does Not,” Jan. 2006).		


Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails	

November 2012

Recommendations for Reform
•	 Require community supervision for all state jail felons. State jail placement can be used as either up front
time or as a sanction for violating terms of community supervision.
•	 Reinvest a portion of the savings with Community Supervision and Corrections Departments (CSCDs), to
aid in their efforts to reduce recidivism and safely supervise state jail felons.
•	 Reemphasize the importance of rehabilitation for state jail felons, as it is essential to kick the criminal habit
before their behavior escalates. Rehabilitation should be a required focus during both short state jail stays
and community supervision terms.

for low-level state jail felons who violate a term of their community supervision.
Simply, the code must be amended to read,
“On conviction of a state jail felony punished under
Section 12.35(a), Penal Code, other than a state jail
felony listed in Subdivision (1), the judge may shall
suspend the imposition of the sentence and place the
defendant on community supervision …” Texas Code
of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42.12, Sec. 15(a)(2).
It is important to note that state jail offenders in Texas with
previous long records of violent felonies and sex crimes
would still be subject to the penalty enhancement found in
the Texas Penal Code Section 12.35(c), which permits any
state jail offender to be punished for a third degree felony if
he or she used a deadly weapon or knew one would be used,
or were previously convicted of certain felonies.35
By universally requiring community supervision in this
way, a judge can impose a significant degree of leverage over
state jail offenders that is not currently possible. In addition,
offenders that have a job, strong family and community
supports, and positive peer groups have every motivation
to keep them, and since even a three month initial term of
incarceration undermines or eliminates those strengths, beginning a sentence on community supervision may permit
more offenders to keep those supports.
It is vitally important that state jails exist as a tool for judges
to ensure adherence to community supervision provisions.
However, the current trajectory of state jails—ever-increas-


ing costs and recidivism—is failing Texas taxpayers and citizens who desire only safe streets. The 73rd Legislature was
right in ensuring that secure confinement is an option for
state jail felons, along with community supervision.

Supervision in Communities to Keep Streets

With state jail felons now placed on community supervision as a default, local probation departments will be tasked
with, at least primarily, providing community supervision
for these offenders. Fortunately, the Legislature has entrusted Community Supervision and Corrections Departments
(CSCDs) with felony supervision before, and the CSCDs
have proven particularly adept at leveraging diversion funding into increased public safety.
Generally, supervision has been shown to reduce recidivism. Offenders who “max out,” or serve their entire term
in prison without supervision, are re-arrested and re-incarcerated more often than those released to supervision, and
more of those were for violent crime or assaults than those
under supervision, while maxed out offenders’ survival time
was shorter than those released with supervision.36
Currently, state jail felons are not provided any community
supervision following their state jail term. Such supervision
would ensure that offenders stay on the right track and obtain housing, employment, or desist from drug use. Data
indicates that state jail felons could be safely supervised in
the community. Non-violent criminals to begin with, while
inside a state jail, almost all state jail felons received in 2011
(21,382 or 92 percent) had good disciplinary history.37

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As noted earlier, an indication of the importance of supervision for state jail felons arose last legislative session. House
Bill 2649, which permitted offenders who demonstrate “exemplary conduct” by participating in education, treatment,
or vocational programs (if offered at the state jail) to spend
up to 20 percent of their sentence on probation in their community, was a step towards increased supervision for state
jail felons.38 Policymakers were encouraged by not only the
projected $49 million in cost savings, but also in the benefits
of supervision—accountability, job and housing direction,
and other restrictions.
Those restrictions are indeed what lead many state jail felons
to request a direct sentence to a state jail rather than community supervision. Probation is not an easy task—it is longer than average state jail terms (two to five years, generally,
and can be extended up to ten years) and restricts a great
deal of their freedom. There are a wide variety of possible
conditions of supervision an offender must meet while on
probation. In fact, a judge can impose “any reasonable condition” to protect the community, restore the victim, or for
purposes of punishment, rehabilitation, or reformation.39
Texas law also suggests the following conditions:
1.	 Commit no offense against the laws of this State or of
any other State or of the United States;
2.	 Avoid injurious or vicious habits;
3.	 Avoid persons or places of disreputable or harmful
character, including any person, other than a family
member of the defendant, who is an active member of a
criminal street gang;
4.	 Report to the supervision officer as directed by the
judge or supervision officer and obey all rules and regulations of the community supervision and corrections
5.	 Permit the supervision officer to visit the defendant at
the defendant’s home or elsewhere;
6.	 Work faithfully at suitable employment as far as possible;
7.	 Remain within a specified place;		

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails.

8.	 Pay the defendant’s fine, if assessed, and all court costs
whether a fine is assessed or not, in one or several sums;
9.	 Support the defendant’s dependents;
10.	 Participate, for a time specified by the judge, in any
community-based program, including a communityservice work program under Section 16 of this article;
11.	 Reimburse the county in which the prosecution was
instituted for compensation paid to appointed counsel
for defending the defendant in the case, if counsel was
appointed, or if the defendant was represented by a public defender’s office, in an amount that would have been
paid to an appointed attorney had the county not had a
public defender’s office;
12.	 Remain under custodial supervision in a community
corrections facility, obey all rules and regulations of the
facility, and pay a percentage of the defendant’s income
to the facility for room and board;
13.	 Pay a percentage of the defendant’s income to the defendant’s dependents for their support while under custodial supervision in a community corrections facility;
14.	 Submit to testing for alcohol or controlled substances;
15.	 Attend counseling sessions for substance abusers or
participate in substance abuse treatment services in a
program or facility approved or licensed by the Department of State Health Services;
16.	 With the consent of the victim of a misdemeanor offense or of any offense under Title 7, Penal Code, participate in victim-defendant mediation;
17.	 Submit to electronic monitoring;
18.	 Reimburse the compensation to victims of crime fund
for any amounts paid from that fund to or on behalf of
a victim, as defined by Article 56.32, of the defendant’s
offense or if no reimbursement is required, make one
payment to the compensation to victims of crime fund
in an amount not to exceed $50 if the offense is a misdemeanor or not to exceed $100 if the offense is a felony;


Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails	

19.	 Reimburse a law enforcement agency for the analysis,
storage, or disposal of raw materials, controlled substances, chemical precursors, drug paraphernalia, or
other materials seized in connection with the offense;
20.	 Pay all or part of the reasonable and necessary costs incurred by the victim for psychological counseling made
necessary by the offense or for counseling and education relating to acquired immune deficiency syndrome
or human immunodeficiency virus made necessary by
the offense;
21.	 Make one payment in an amount not to exceed $50
to a crime stoppers organization as defined by Section
414.001, Government Code, and as certified by the Texas Crime Stoppers Council;
22.	 Submit a DNA sample to the Department of Public
Safety under Subchapter G, Chapter 411, Government
Code, for the purpose of creating a DNA record of the
23.	 In any manner required by the judge, provide public
notice of the offense for which the defendant was placed
on community supervision in the county in which the
offense was committed; and
24.	 Reimburse the county in which the prosecution was instituted for compensation paid to any interpreter in the
Recent law also requires submission of a DNA sample.41
This list provides an indication of why state jail felons are
opting for 10 months in a state jail rather than two to five
years of probation. Texans who seek safer streets, however,
may choose the latter.
Furthermore, many CSCDs have shown themselves to be
effective providers of supervision, and the Legislature has
repeatedly entrusted them with taxpayer dollars to do so.
The Legislature has, in recent years, appropriated considerable resources for community supervision. The 79th Legislature provided an additional $55.5 million per biennium

November 2012

intended to reduce caseloads, increase the utilization of
progressive sanctions models, and provide additional residential treatment beds.42 This included $28 million over
two years (2006-2007) to hire additional community supervision officers for medium and high risk offenders, $26
million over those two years for residential treatment and
sanction beds, and a commitment to “encourage” the use of
progressive sanctions.43
The 80th Legislature provided $32 million for 800 new
community correction facility beds, $10 million more for
outpatient substance abuse treatment, $63 million for 1,500
new Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility beds, and
$28 million for 1,400 new Intermediate Sanction Facility
beds.44 The 80th Legislature also provided a transfer of $6.5
million over the biennium from Department of State Health
Services to TDCJ for outpatient substance abuse treatment
for probationers.45
Funding appropriated in recent years for community supervision for higher risk offenders has proven effective.
Between August 2005 and August 2011, community supervision of felons increased eight percent, to 170,558 offenders, while revocations dropped one percent with the new
funding.46 Specifically, CSCDs that received the diversion
funding from the legislature used it to obtain a 3.6 percent
drop in felony revocations.47 Technical revocations have also
dropped, at a rate of 10.4 percent statewide and 14.5 percent
in CSCDs using diversion funding.48 CSCDs that declined
diversion funding, and therefore were not required to implement graduated sanctions, increased felony revocations
9.1 percent, and technical revocations 6.9 percent, even
while the number of offenders monitored dropped.49
Data shows that residential programs operated by CSCDs
are more effective in reducing recidivism rates. On average,
across all the residential programs CSCDs operate, which are
known as community corrections facilities, only 25 percent
of offenders completing* their programs were re-incarcerated
after two years, and only 33 percent were rearrested.50
In order to ensure competent supervision of state jail felons
in the community, a portion of the savings realized by the
reduced use and populations in state jails should be sent to
the counties to provide for their increased probation pop-

* High proportions of offenders complete their residential treatment programs as well: 77 percent in the 2008 fiscal year.


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Other Benefits of Supervision
•	 Probation supervision includes requirements
for the offender, but also assistance finding
employment and stable housing.
•	 Probation supervision can include requirements to keep and attend mental health appointments; previously, attendance at these appointments by state jail felons released without
supervision was under 18 percent, according to
TDCJ officials, prompting mental health authorities to discontinue their work with released
state jail felons.
•	 Probation supervision includes a requirement
to have a valid home plan. Living under a
bridge is a recipe for recidivism, and probation
officers can not only require but in some cases
facilitate stable housing for state jail felons on
ulations. By basing this reinvestment on the reduction in
daily state jail bed use by state jail felons attributable to a
particular county, the state can obtain far more effective supervision and rehabilitation of state jail felons while retaining a portion of the savings to reduce the overall budget for
TDCJ. This also is an equitable recognition of the increased
demand on a county’s probation budget and the role that
county played in the reduced state jail population.
With this funding realignment, community supervision,
then, is both a tougher “deal” for state jail felons and a more
effective use of taxpayer dollars. Today’s broken state jail system must cede to the more efficient community supervision
system. The Legislature has already made the investment,
constructed the facilities, and brought the beds online—furthermore, the regional structure of these jails not only cuts
down on transportation cuts and increases the possibility of
family visits while in the state jail, but also eases the geographic transition between community supervision and the
time, if any, one serves in a state jail.

Rehabilitation Alternatives In and Out of State
Finally, a key component of this system of handling state jail
felons is a reinvigoration of the commitment to treatment
shown by the Legislature in 1993. First, providing intensive		

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails.

treatment to offenders with a proven record of drug addiction will break the cycle of drug abuse in many offenders and
reduce further cycles through the state jails. Second, adding
a work release option to offenders with financial crimes will
not only aid in restitution for victims but put them on track
towards earning an honest living, rather than persisting in
criminal activity.
Through the use of community supervision, the original
commitment to rehabilitation for these low-level offenders can be reinstated. The vast majority of state jail felons
are either drug or property offenders, and the latter often
experience substance abuse issues as well. CSCDs already
use a risk and needs assessment to appropriately place offenders under their jurisdiction.51 State jail felons should be
similarly assessed with a reliable and accurate risk and needs
assessment to determine the level of substance abuse treatment or work programming needed, as well as the amount
of supervision necessary to keep the state’s streets safe.
Prior criminal histories of drug offenders in state jails indicate a likelihood of successful placement in drug treatment
programs. Out of the 3,288 drug offenders on-hand as of
April 30, 2012, 31.6 percent had no prior offenses.52 Overall,
72 percent of those drug offenders had two or fewer prior
convictions.53 These very low-level offenders would likely
be appropriate and safe placements into a drug treatment
program, although there are drug treatment programs with
more security for even high-level offenders.
Table 1 (see next page) provides information on the variety of substance abuse treatment options offered through
CSCDs, and a few provided by the state.
While fewer in number than substance abuse programs,
work related programs are also available for property offenders without a substance abuse issue. Some—but not
all—property crimes are motivated by poverty. Employment and legal access to funds would certainly decrease the
impetus for property crimes.
For instance, restitution centers are residential placements
targeted towards offenders who previously had difficulty
holding down employment and also had outstanding restitution orders. Such centers aid in job placement, while ensuring payment of restitution and providing life skills and
other cognitive programming.54


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November 2012

Table 1: Community-Based Substance Abuse Treatment Options


Eligibility/Appropriate Placement Additional Services

Day Reporting Center (DRCs)

Non-residential placements
providing high levels of
structure and supervision.

Felony and misdemeanor offenders.

DRCs can broker substance abuse
services, job placements, or referrals.

Intensive Supervision
Probation (ISP)

Non-residential placement
on a specialized (smaller)
probation caseload.

Lower-risk offenders that can
be safely placed in their home
communities; appropriate for
those with stable employment.

ISPs can use electronic
monitoring, field surveillance,
or more frequent urinalysis.

Treatment Alternative to
Incarceration Program (TAIP)

Outpatient substance abuse
treatment placements
provided by a CSCD. Costs
average $7.79 per day.

Indigent offenders with substance
abuse issues (TAIP works to resolve
financial barriers to treatment).

Screening, assessment and
evaluation, referrals or placements
into a licensed chemical
dependency program.

Transitional Treatment
Centers (TTCs)

Private, residential placement
for substance abuse aftercare,
usually a 90-day placement with
evening reporting (offenders
are able to work fulltime).
Costs average $35 per day.

Usually offenders that have
completed in-prison substance
abuse treatment or a SAFPF.

Counseling; 25 percent of an
employed offender’s gross
income is given to the TTC,
which then credits the amount
to the state’s payments.

Court Residential Treatment
Centers (CRTCs)

Residential placement ordered
by the court or as a condition
of probation. Placement lasts
less than 24 months.

Felony or misdemeanor offenders
with substance abuse issues.

CRTCs can involve substance
abuse treatment, educational
programming, vocational
training, and life skills training.

Substance Abuse Treatment
Facilities (SATFs)

Residential facilities targeted
towards encouraging
desistance from drug and/
or alcohol abuse. Placement
lasts less than 24 months.

Offenders with substance abuse issues.

SATFs usually use cognitive-based
substance abuse treatment.

Intermediate Sanction
Facilities (ISFs)

Short-term detention
alternative to revocation or
prison placement, placement
is for less than 24 months.

Offenders who have previously been
placed on community supervision and
have violated one or more terms.

ISFs focus on substance
abuse issues and encourage
education and employment

State-Contracted Intermediate
Sanction Facility (SC-ISFs)

Secure lockdown facility, akin to
detention. Placement is usually
for 90 days, although a 45-day
track targets relapsed offenders.

Medium or high-risk felony offenders
in violation of supervision.

Substance abuse treatment
or cognitive therapies.

Substance Abuse Felony
Punishment Facilities (SAFPFs)

Highly structured prison-like
facilities. Placement for six to nine
months. Existing capacity of 400500 beds. Followed by aftercare.

Serious offenders, usually with
history of failure in other settings.

Highly structured work, education,
and treatment schedules, and
well-defined goals and guidelines.

Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Community Justice Assistance Division, Legislative Budget Bureau

Work release programs highlight the effect of having a job
on low-level property offenders. At work release centers such
as those in Washington State, offenders go to work during
the day but report back to the center after work where they
sleep. Under the work release model, after an appropriate
amount of time in compliance, the offender is transitioned
to probation, which in some cases could include electronic
monitoring and even house arrest enforced through the
monitoring so that the individual is verified to be at home


when not at work. Washington State’s work release program
has achieved a 2.8 percent reduction in recidivism, amongst
otherwise identical offenders,55 Florida’s work release program increased the probability of employment by 6 to 11
percent and cut recidivism by 8 percent after three years,56
and Kansas found a 12 percent cut in recidivism for offenders participating in their work release program.57 Work release programs typically cost less than traditional incarceration because the participant often pays some or all of their

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November 2012		

room and board cost and eats some meals while working.
Although less direct, there may also be tax revenue to the
state associated with the individual’s employment. Perhaps
most importantly, someone transitioned to work release
is more likely to maintain long-term employment and less
likely to end up being dependent on government programs
than if they were simply released straight from prison.58
Those offenders without a job at the time of discharge are
not out of luck—day reporting centers provide a place to
learn a skill and obtain other vocational education on the
path to obtaining a job. Georgia uses such centers, and recidivism rates for offenders placed in those facilities are onequarter the rate of other offenders.59
Finally, Texas policymakers should consider creating a new
version of Project RIO. Project RIO was a collaboration between TDCJ and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC)
that assisted employment efforts by ex-offenders, involving
education, training, and employment referrals. Project RIO
was successful in leveraging community ties previously developed by the TWC into 12,000 employers who were willing to hire ex-offenders.60 Evaluations highlighted almost
double the rate of employment for RIO participants than
non-participants, and lower recidivism rates.61 The main
drawback to Project RIO was the inherent selection bias in
this type of program. That is, it was not clear whether participants in Project RIO were those most likely to obtain
employment regardless of the program. Also, data did not
clearly indicate which jobs obtained by participants were
through Project RIO or due to other efforts or connections.
This, in part, led to the Legislature eliminating funding for
Project RIO beginning in the 2012 fiscal year in order to
streamline TDCJ’s budget.62		

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails.

A better version of Project RIO would involve contracts with
private sector providers of workforce solutions who would
be evaluated and paid based on performance measures, such
as how many participating offenders are employed through
the program’s efforts beyond the baseline rate for that type
of offender. Funding for such an initiative would come from
savings realized from reductions in the jail population that
would result from returning to the original model where
shorter-term jail stays are used as conditions of probation.


State jails are a black eye on Texas’ criminal justice system.
Expensive and ineffective, the state jail felony system has
strayed far from its intended purposes. Policymakers need
not permit the losses to compound upon each other any
longer, however.
Reforming state law to return state jails to their originally
intended purpose would give community supervision in
Texas a powerful tool in their efforts to rehabilitate and
punish offenders. Swift and sure sanctions have proven effective, and Texas lawmakers’ ingenuity in 1993 should finally be truly implemented. Strong community supervision
in combination with effective, targeted rehabilitation could
substantially decrease recidivism and lower costs, finally
putting the “corrections” back in state jails.


Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails	

November 2012

“Focus Report: New Demands on Texas Prison Space Revive Debate Over Correctional Strategies,” House Research Organization,
Texas House of Representatives (Nov. 1997) 3-5.
“Agency Strategic Plan: Fiscal Years 2013-2017,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice (July 2012) 2.
“Interim Report to the 81st Legislature,” House Committee on Corrections (Jan. 2009) 18.
“Interim Report 77th Legislature: Charge Five,” Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, 17.
Ibid., 5.
Ibid., 5.
“SB 532: Bill Analysis,” House Research Organization (May 1993) 13; “Bill Analysis: S.B. 532,” Senate Research Center, 3.
“Final Bill Analysis: Senate Bill 532 State Jail Legislation,” Texas Punishment Standards Commission (July 1993) 4.
Senate Bill 1067, 73rd Legislature.
Senate Bill 15, 74th Legislature.
Senate Bill 663, 75th Legislature.
“Interim Report 77th Legislature: Charge Five,” Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, 20.
“Statistical Report: Fiscal Year 2011,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 34.
Email, Jeff Baldwin, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Oct. 3, 2012.
“Interim Report 77th Legislature: Charge Five,” Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, 20.
“Criminal Justice Uniform Cost Report: Fiscal Years 2008-2010,” Legislative Budget Board (Jan. 2011) 6.
“Statewide Criminal Justice Recidivism and Revocation Rates,” Legislative Budget Board (Jan. 2011) 21, 25.
Ibid., 31, 35.
“Recidivism of State Jail Felons: The First Report,” Criminal Justice Policy Council, 4.
Ibid., i.
Ibid., 7.
“The State Jail System Today,” Criminal Justice Policy Council (Sept. 1998) i.
“Statewide Criminal Justice Recidivism and Revocation Rates,” Legislative Budget Board (Jan. 2011) 26.
“Annual Review: 2011,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 39.
“Legislative Appropriations Request for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013,” Texas Board of Criminal Justice (Aug. 2010) 94.
Email, Jeff Baldwin, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Oct. 4, 2012.
“Interim Report 77th Legislature: Charge Five,” Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, 18-19.
House Bill 2649, 82nd Legislature.
“Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE): An Implementation Analysis,” The University of Hawaii at Mānoa Public
Administration Program (May 2010).
“Program Evaluation Results,” Hawaii State Judiciary’s HOPE Probation Program.
Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.35.
Melinda Schlager and Kelly Robbins, “Does Parole Work? Revisited: Reframing the Discussion of the Impact of Postprison Supervision on Offender Outcome,” The Prison Journal 88:2 (June 2008) 245-247.
“Statistical Report: Fiscal Year 2011,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 2.
House Bill 2649, 82nd Legislature.
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.12 § 11.
Senate Bill 727, 81st Legislature.
Senate Bill 1, 79th Legislature, Text of Conference Committee Report (2005) V-23.
House Bill 1, 80th Legislature, Text of Conference Committee Report (2007) V-30.
Ibid., pg. II-49.
“Report to the Governor and Legislative Budget Board on the Monitoring of Community Supervision Diversion Funds,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice (Dec. 2011) 5, 10.
Ibid., 10.
Ibid., 11.
Ibid. See also “Texas Community Supervision Revocation Project: A Comparison of Revoked Felons During September 2005 and
September 2007,” Legislative Budget Board (Aug. 2008) (showing that between 2005 and 2007, revocations dropped even while the
population increased).


Texas Public Policy Foundation

November 2012		

Putting “Corrections” Back in State Jails.

“Community Corrections Facility Outcome Study of FY 2008 Discharges,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Community Justice Assistance Division Research and Evaluation (May 2011) 13.
“Community Justice Assistance Division: Assessing Risks and Needs,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice, accessed July 13, 2012.
Email, Jeff Baldwin, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, June 12, 2012.
“2009 Texas Progressive Interventions and Sanctions Bench Manual,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice Community Justice
Assistance Division, 43.
“Does Participation in Washington’s Work Release Facilities Reduce Recidivism?” Washington State Institute for Public Policy (Nov.
Jillian Berk, “Does Work Release Work?” (Nov. 2007) 13, 17.
“Offender Programs Evaluation,” Kansas Department of Corrections (Jan. 2007) 153.
See, e.g., Rob Atkinson and Knut Rostad, “Employment Dimensions of Reentry: Understanding the Nexus between Prisoner Reentry and Work,” Urban Institute Reentry Roundtable (May 2003).
Susan Patton, “A Comparison of Recidivism Rates for the State of Georgia and the Rome Day Reporting Center,” Capella University,
School of Human Services (2008) 60-63.
“Program Focus: Texas’ Project RIO (Re-Integration of Offenders),” National Institute of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, Office of Correctional Education (June 1998) 3.
Ibid., 3, 14.
“Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2012,” Texas Workforce Commission (Dec. 2011) II.A; “Agency Operating Budget 2012,” Texas
Department of Criminal Justice, 5.


About the Author
Jeanette Moll is a juvenile justice policy analyst in the Center for Effective Justice at the
Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Prior to joining TPPF, she served as a legislative aide in the Wisconsin Legislature, where she
dealt with various policy issues, media affairs, and constituent outreach.
Moll earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then
earned a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, where she served on the board
of the Texas Review of Litigation and interned with a federal bankruptcy judge, a Texas
appellate court judge, and a central Texas law office. She is a
member of the State Bar of Texas.

Texas Public Policy Foundation
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