OK, I am going to stay on the topic of national developments, but shifting over to sentencing and corrections, further on in the criminal justice continuum. I think you are going to hear Jim and I stressing very similar themes, which are (1) national resources are telling us how to be cost-effective; (2) state resources are available to help you; and (3) we have to work collaboratively together to be cost-effective. Now some of you know that my background is in criminal justice, working for the legislature and the executive branch. I continue to keep up with those issues, in connection with the National Center for State Courts, and the ABA, so I see stuff like these two reports from the good folks at Pew. One in 31 is a follow-up to a report called 1 in 100, which is the overall statistic for incarceration in this country. One in 31 refers to what we call the control rate, the proportion of people under some form of correctional control including prison, jail, probation and parole. So this report is stating the issue from a human perspective, the “long reach of American corrections” as they call it. The other report, Arming the Courts with Research, is more prescriptive, I will get to that in a moment.
Of course Texas likes its correctional system to be robust, so instead of 1 in 31 we have 1 in 22 under correctional control, almost twice what our rate was back in the 80s before our modern era of criminal justice emerged. Texas is now spending $6 billion a biennium on TDCJ, anybody want to guess what that figure was in 1982-1983? ($150 million) Now that we employ guards instead of having the inmates handle security, of course prison is by far the most expensive weapon in the arsenal, and they give you a couple of ways to look at that. Pew’s idea here is to help states collect and analyze data on who is admitted to their prisons, how long they stay, who returns, and the implications of these practices for public safety and state budgets They want to help us understand how our existing sentencing, release, and community supervision policies, practices, and outcomes compare with those of other states, and to encourage us to use the best research available to advance reforms that will reduce crime and recidivism and deliver a solid return on taxpayers’ investments
And those themes are the thrust of that second 2009 report, Arming the Courts with Research. It has ten recommendations, but I will boil it down to three themes directed at three levels of inquiry. At the policy level we are urged to adopt recidivism reduction as a stated strategy and collaborate effectively across disciplines and levels of government. In terms of the offenders themselves, we are told to use the science. We have to assess them based on risk and needs, supervise them according to evidence-based practices, and respond immediately to violations, but employ a progression of sanctions instead of all-or-nothing, supervision or prison/jail. And we have to work on our judges too, offenders aren’t the only ones who need behavior modification. Judges have to be trained on how to work with data such as risk assessments at the micro level, and recidivism stats at the macro lever to look back at how they are doing. They have to know what programs are available, and who they are best suited to. And they have to be motivators for the offenders, providing visible procedural fairness as well as a firm but caring authority figure.
OK, that is what we wanted you to know on the national development, now I am going to shift gears into the second subject, then I will go into the third subject – cost effective strategies, before turning it back over to Jim.
The Fair Defense Act was enacted with about 18 million dollars to go to counties for that biennium, 2002-3. It has gone up pretty steadily, and now the biennial amount is close to 60 million, thanks in large part to the efforts of Senator Rodney Ellis. But we realize that the state is not coming close to covering your increased expenses on indigent defense, and we are deeply committed to getting more and more funding for this purpose.
The Task Force takes that $30 million in state funding and distributes it in a variety of ways into your coffers. But for simplicity, the three main strategies are formula grants, equalization grants, and discretionary grants. Formula grants in 2008 were $12 million or just over half the funding distributed, with equalization grants totaling another $6 million to the 88 counties with the lowest percentage of state reimbursements for overall increased indigent defense costs. Just over three million went to discretionary grants in 2008, with public defender organizations representing the major emphasis of those seed funds. With the new revenue from the state I anticipate we’ll see even more funding for such programs, including more regional approaches, with counties beginning to analyze the cost-effectiveness of that approach.
Which brings us to our third topic, around cost effective strategies. This is where Jim and I want to spend the most time today, and I will be brisk to give him time to wrap this up. Our collective challenge is to Develop a cost-effective criminal justice system… That meets the needs of the local community and… Satisfies the requirements of the Constitution and State law . I started off talking a bit about corrections and sentencing, and I want to return to that part of criminal justice for just a minute.
At the beginning of my comments I said we’d identify some national resources that are encouraging the quest for cost-effective strategies, and some state resources to help you in that quest. I’ve talked about indigent defense resources, and just want to touch on a couple more, and then mention some developments in data sharing and technology that should be further incentive or inspiration to you.
When I talked about the cost of prisons in Texas, I figured you were thinking about your own jail costs, which I don’t have numbers for. What I can tell you is from a 2006 report by the Jail Standards Commission, that doesn’t give us the county costs, but does tell us the population categories in your jails. I’ve rolled up the three major categories to show you, in particular, that the pretrial population is a huge proportion in jails overall. That is a population that you can work on, with your judges and DAs, probation and pretrial departments. And to help make the point, Can anyone tell me what Art. 104.002 CCP stands for? That’s right, it says everybody in jail is entitled to your care and feeding. It embodies the constitutional obligation you have to support all those people your criminal justice system is detaining, the 40 dollars a day or whatever it is in your county.
In 2007 my office helped Midland County with the kind of work I am suggesting to you, making an impact on the jail populations you can affect. We went in and analyzed the criminal justice process, the flow of information or lack of it, and the junctures where tweaks could lower the bed count. We made findings that might fit in your system too, or there might be similar issues with slightly different solutions. First and foremost, we found siloed information and a lack of coordination in moving the criminal justice process, from law enforcement to prosecution to the courts to probation and corrections. I suspect that some version of this issue persists in virtually every system in the state. We can sometimes help with that kind of analysis, on a limited opportunity basis, but one another way that we can help is by sending our court services specialist for technical assistance, to help your judges with their case management. I’ve put the webpage for that service on this slide.
Integrated Justice is just another way to say what we were saying to Midland County – you need to work on sharing data from actor to actor in the criminal justice system, to improve efficiency, costs, and even public safety. I wanted you all to know that this theme is a big one for me, and I’ve been working with sister state agencies like DPS and TDCJ, as well as local criminal justice folks through the collaborative effort, Texas Integrated Justice Information Systems. We have developed documentation for automated information exchanges between counties and the prison system when an offender is sent to prison. We want to expand that effort further upstream in criminal justice, to help courts, prosecution, and law enforcement with streamlined data exchanges. For the time being, courts in Texas have been focusing on eFiling in the civil justice context. What I am saying is we need to expand our data and technology efforts into the criminal justice realm.
And that brings me to my last point, which is that the Legislature is pushing us all in the direction of criminal e-Filing. SB 1259, a bill that I confess I worked closely on, requires clerks to provide a reciprocal eFiling capability in criminal cases. In other words, if a clerk accepts eFiling from the state in criminal cases, the clerk has to develop the capability to accept eFiling from the variety of defense counsel in their jurisdiction. This change in the law went into immediate effect and is a serious spur to action. I am working with the JCIT, the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals to develop further guidance on this issue, but you need to know about it now and begin your local thought process as soon as possible. That concludes my portion of this presentation, I’ll turn it back over to Jim and look forward to any questions you have at the end. Thanks for your attention.
Indigent Defense: National Developments, State Funding, and Cost-Effective Strategies TAC Annual Conference August 25, 2009 Carl Reynolds, Administrative Director, Office of Court Administration [email_address] Jim Bethke, Director, Task Force on Indigent Defense [email_address] www.courts.state.tx.us & www.courts.state.tx.us/tfid
Created in 2004 to examine the ability of the American justice system to provide adequate counsel to individuals in criminal and juvenile delinquency cases who cannot afford lawyers
Decades after the Supreme Court’s Gideon decision, there was disturbing evidence that states and localities were not providing competent counsel, despite the constitutional requirement that they do so
The Committee’s charge was to assess the extent of the problem, the various ways that states and localities provide legal representation to those who cannot hire their own lawyers, and to formulate recommendations about how to improve systems of indigent defense to ensure fairness for all Americans
Examine the various ways that states and localities provide legal representation to those who cannot hire their own lawyers, assess the extent of the problem, and to formulate recommendations about how to improve systems of indigent defense to ensure fairness for all Americans