Texas Prison Recidivism Improves

A report released today by the Pew Center on the states shows four in ten offenders return to prison within three years of their release. As Laurie Johnson reports — Texas is one of seventeen states to improve its recidivism rate.

The Pew report is the first national survey of recidivism rates since 1994. Adam Gelb directs the Pew Center's Public Safety Performance Project. He says the recidivism rate is the same as it was 30 years ago.

"So we've had a massive increase in state spending on prisons but the national recidivism rate remains stubbornly high. You know, 25-30 years ago, states spent just over $10 billion on corrections. Now they spend more than $50 billion — that's one in 14 state general fund dollars. But inmates are just as likely to cycle through the revolving door."

The study tracked inmates released in 1999 and again in 2004 for three years. In Texas, the rate dropped a fraction from 32.1 percent to 31.9 percent during that period. Gelb says the state has made more progress since then.
In fact, the Texas Department of Corrections states recidivism in Texas is down to 24.3 percent.

"Texas is showing national leadership on this issue over the last several years by making a huge investment in alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. The state made a huge investment in 2007 in a series of residential and community-based alternatives for nonviolent and it's really paying off. Texas' recidivism rate is down substantially, taxpayers have saved almost $2 billion and the crime rate in Texas is as low as it has been since the 1970s."

Gelb says Texas is considered the symbol of law and order in this country and the progress made here has had a significant impact on shaping corrections policies.

Thirty-three states participated in the national study:

Pew Center on the States PSPP Recidivism Report.pdf

Pew Center on the States Recidivism Fact Sheet.pdf

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...