HB 44 is scheduled for Senate floor debate on May 14. It's a simple bill. It removes the word "not" from a law passed back in 1995. By removing the word "not", the Leg will restore to the prison system the authority to give an inmate back good conduct time that he/she lost for misbehaving in prison.
For you old timers, if that sounds familiar, then you probably remember the bad old times before 1995. See, before then, prison overcrowding ruled the day. The parole had reached a high of 80%. Laws were passed to make parole easier, including the law to give the prison system authority to restore good conduct credit.
The Leg thought is was more important to get the inmates out of prison early than to protect public safety.
You may even remember that Alan Polunsky, the then chairman of the TDCJ Board, wrote the following editorial:
It's time to reform good-time policy
BYLINE: Allan Polunsky
Texans should no longer tolerate state prison policies that contribute to the mandatory release of hardened criminals freed on ''good-time'' credit after serving only a fraction of their actual sentences behind bars.
It is time to reform the so-called good- time credit system, which was used in the past to help reduce prison overcrowding. By fall, our prison expansion program will have added more than 100,000 prison beds during the past five years, and that will provide sufficient capacity to keep violent and repeat offenders incarcerated.
Reforming the policy is the responsibility of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and both Gov. George W. Bush and I are encouraging the board to act swiftly and decisively on several badly needed reforms.
The basic concept of good-time credit, properly used, is a valid tool in prison management to encourage better inmate behavior. But because of prison overcrowding in the past, the penitentiary system was forced to carry the practice to an extreme, thereby endangering public safety and emasculating the department's disciplinary policies.
Following are the most critically needed reforms:
*We must stop restoring previously -earned good-time credits to inmates returned to prison for parole violations.
*As an inmate earns his way up the -good-time scale, we must stop recomputing and backdating at higher rates the previous credits earned at his lower rate.
*We need to lengthen the time an -inmate must wait to be ''promoted'' to a higher good-time earning status after committing a violation of prison rules.
*We should bring all inmates into -the system at a lower good-time earning status rather than at the present level. Currently, an inmate comes into the system automatically earning 40 days of good-time credits for every 30 days actually served. This makes no sense whatsoever. An inmate should work his way up the ladder and not receive undeserved benefits.
As Gov. Bush has said, criminals will not be deterred from bad behavior either on the streets or in prison if they know that under institutional policy they can regain good-time credits automatically.
Good-time credit inside our prisons should function just as the criminal laws function in the free world. Our policy on awarding - and revoking - good-time credit in prison should be penalty-driven just as the penal code is.
These four reforms will go a long way toward returning the good-time system to the workable program it was before court intervention and overcrowding.
Tightening the policies will assist prison administrators by giving them a meaningful tool for rewarding good behavior and punishing deviant actions.
As James A. Collins, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, has said, ''The inmate who keeps his nose clean, works hard and avails himself of vocational and educational opportunities has nothing to fear from a strict good-time policy. Tightening up on good time is aimed at the prisoner who refuses to follow the rules and whose behavior endangers the staff, other prisoners and state property.''
The current liberal good-time policies were adopted by the Legislature and past prison boards under duress in trying to cope with a vastly overcrowded system. But today Texas taxpayers have paid billions of dollars to construct sufficient capacity to alleviate that situation, and the state's citizens are due assurance that the money spent will bring an end to the revolving doors in our state prisons.
[So, how is it the Leg can't remember why they passed the prohibition in the first place?]
[This message was edited by JB on 05-15-07 at .]
[This message was edited by JB on 05-15-07 at .]
Just a decade, huh! Well, fashion operates on a twenty year cycle and apparently legislation operates on a ten year cycle. Maybe we can switch them around. That way our clothes can be kept in the closet and reused while they still fit (saving money) and the prisoners remain where they should be (keeping the streets safe). Win, win!
John, I think you miss the point of this legislation. In the old article you cite, James Collins, the prison director, explained that tightening up parole laws would have no effect on the good inmates who stayed out of trouble and did their jobs. The ones it would hurt are those who are still a menace to prison personnel, and state property, who just won't get with the program. Instead of being released early, they would stay in the joint.
Well guess what? The lege did just as Collins wanted, and we discovered that those kinds of inmates are precisely the ones that cost the most money to incarcerate! The state will save a ton of money by releasing the most destructive inmates. And that is the main thing.
And what about their subsequent victims? Well, not surprisingly, they are not testifying in the legislative committees.
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