Recent TCJC Survey Generates Surprising Results

 
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----- Original Message -----
From: Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
To: papa_@msn.com  
Sent: Tuesday, June 20, 2006 6:47 PM
Subject: Recent TCJC Survey Generates Surprising Results

Dear Survey Respondent,

The response rate to TCJC's sunset review survey was incredible. Thank you! At 4000 plus respondents, we reached 300% above our target response goal. You sent a clear message about your views of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) performance. The report was due June 19, 2006 and because of your timely participation we were among a handful of resource groups who were able to submit analysis and direct input from the public.

Most survey participants:

.View rehabilitation as the primary purpose of TDCJ.

.Believe that additional funding shoud be directed towards treatment programs for non-violent offenders.

.View increased visitation opportunities as a way to maintain healthier family structures.

.Based on YOUR input, our report to the Sunset Advisory Committee listed a number of recommendations. Click on the individual links below to view each full recommendation.

.Assess Evidence-Based Treatment Programs

.Focus on Programs that Reduce Crime

.View Probation and Drug Treatment Separately

.Invest in Programs that will Yield Real Returns

.Aid Children and Families of the Incarcerated

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the report was the anonymous original written input provided by you and other survey participants. To see what respondents wrote, click here for the full report. The executive summary is also available online.

We hope that the results of the survey will spark discussion and debate in many circles. Please feel free to forward this email to your friends and colleagues.

Thank you again for participating in the survey and for allowing us to share your written comments and responses with the Sunset Advisory
 
Council.
Sincerely,
Ana Yáñez-Correa
Executive Director
email: info@criminaljusticecoalition.org  
phone: 512-441-8123
web: http://www.criminaljusticecoaltion.org 

http://www.criminaljusticecoalition.org/files/userfiles/TDCJ_Sunset_2006_Survey_Results__Executive_Summary_.pdf

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
UNDERSTANDING THE PUBLIC’S PERCEPTIONS
OF INCARCERATION, REHABILITATION,
EDUCATION, RE-ENTRY, & OTHER ISSUES:
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SUNSET
ADVISORY COMMISSION

ABSTRACT

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) recently developed an anonymous on-line
survey to measure Texans’ perceptions of key aspects of the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice (TDCJ). This survey has allowed TCJC to determine how the public perceives the
purpose of Texas’ prison systems, as well as the range of services provided for prisoners
during and after their incarceration. Over 4,000 Texans of various socioeconomic, racial,
and generational backgrounds responded to the survey within a two week period. They
answered questions relating to prisoner mail, prisoner visitation, prisoner family assistance,
prisoner recreation, services for children of the incarcerated, the purpose of TDCJ,
prevention of drug re-offense, public safety, education, criminal justice spending, criminal
justice budgeting, re-entry, and hiring of former offenders.

TCJC has developed this document to provide the Sunset Advisory Commission and the
public with socially relevant findings to consider during its audit of TDCJ, including during
its observations of public hearings, review of testimony, and examination of other expert
recommendations regarding the manner in which TDCJ should administers its prisons, its
parole and probation systems, and its treatment programs.

OVERVIEW OF FINDINGS

Demographics of Survey Respondents

The 4,000-plus individuals that participated in the anonymous on-line survey were:
• 56% female and 44% male
• 72% were born after 1960
• 82% were of families that had lived in the United States for at least two generations
• 59% lived in households that made $45,000 or less annually
• 59% were White and 41% Non-White

Professions Represented:
• ‘Enrolled College Students’ 37%
• ‘Research and Education’ 13%
• ‘Government’ 6%
• ‘Technology’ 6%
• ‘Non-Profit’ 4%
• ‘Legal’ 4%
• ‘Health’ 4%
• ‘Human Services’ 3%
• ‘Religious Services’ 3%
• ‘Law Enforcement’ 2%
• ‘Food Services’ 1%
• ‘Arts and Culture’ 1%
• ‘Environment’ 0.4%
• ‘Hospitality’ 0.4%

Educational Levels Represented:
• ‘Some College’ 34%
• ‘Bachelor Degree’ 29%
• ‘Master Degree’ 18%
• ‘Doctoral Degree’ 5%
• ‘Associate Degree’ 5%
• ‘High School Diploma’ 3%
• ‘Professional Degree’ 3%
• ‘K-8th Grade’ 0.1%
• ‘Some High School’ 0.4%.

Exposure to the Prison System:

• 1,313 (33% of) survey participants have had no exposure
• 1,074 (27%) have or have had a family member or friend in prison

COMPARISONS BETWEEN GROUPS

Five subgroups surveyed:
(1) Gender
(2) Race
(3) Income
(4) Education
(5) Relationship to the incarcerated

Females vs. Males

. Females were more likely to believe that prisoners should have more access to
basketball, handball, volleyball, and weightlifting in gymnasiums or outdoor
recreation yards.

. Males were more likely than females to believe that there would be no impact on the
number of people entering prison if Texas increased the amount of funding directed
towards high school graduation rates.

. Both ranked as their first priority the spending of additional funds for treatment
programs outside of prison walls and as their last priority the spending of funds for
the construction of more prisons.

. Males were more likely than females to be ‘very willing’ to hire an adult with a felony
conviction for drug distribution.

Non-White vs. White Respondents

. Non-White respondents were more likely to express that families and friends should
have increased opportunities to visit prisoners and that more family members and
friends should be allowed during these visitations.

. Both ranked as their first priority the spending of additional funds for educational
programs for prisoners and as their last priority the spending of funds for the
construction of more prisons.

programs outside of prison walls and as their last priority the spending of funds for
the construction of more prisons.

. Males were more likely than females to be ‘very willing’ to hire an adult with a felony
conviction for drug distribution.

Non-White vs. White Respondents

. Non-White respondents were more likely to express that families and friends should
have increased opportunities to visit prisoners and that more family members and
friends should be allowed during these visitations.

. Both ranked as their first priority the spending of additional funds for educational
programs for prisoners and as their last priority the spending of funds for the
construction of more prisons.

Individuals with an annual income of $45,000 or less vs. Individuals with an annual
income of $45,000 or more

. Individuals with an annual income greater than $45,000 were more likely to believe
that prisoners should have more access to table games (e.g., checkers and dominoes),
reading, artwork, and leatherwork in the library and craft shops.

. Individuals with an annual income greater than $45,000 were more likely to rank as
their first priority the spending of additional funds for probation.

. Individuals with an annual income less than $45,000 were more likely to rank as their
first priority the spending of additional funds for educational programs for prisoners.
Individuals with less than a college degree vs. Individuals with at least a college
degree

. Individuals with less than a college degree were more likely to rank as their first
priority the spending of additional funds for training for prison staff members and
administrators.

. Individuals with at least a college degree were more likely to rank as their first
priority the spending of additional funds for more treatment programs outside of
prison walls.

. Individuals with less than a college degree were more likely to be ‘not willing at all’ to
hire an adult with a felony conviction for a violent crime.

Individuals who have had no exposure to the prison system vs. Individuals who have
exposure to the prison systems due to their relationships with a family member or
friend in prison

. Individuals with exposure to the prison system were more likely to assert that
treatment programs would prevent a non-violent drug user from committing a drugrelated
crime again.

. Individuals without exposure to the prison system were more likely to assert that
their regular reporting to a probation officer would prevent a non-violent drug user
from committing a drug-related crime again.

. Both ranked as their first priority the spending of additional funds for educational
programs for prisoners, but individuals without exposure to the prison system were
statistically more likely than their counterparts to rank this as their first priority.
Challeen.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Most respondents of TCJC’s online survey view rehabilitation as the primary purpose of
TDCJ. The vast majority also feels that non-violent drug offenders would best be benefited
by programs outside of prison walls rather than by prison, and they agree that additional
funding should be directed towards such rehabilitation and probation programs.

Based on these findings, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition makes the following major
recommendations to the Sunset Advisory Commission, the Texas Legislature, and
organizations that focus their work on issues related to Texas’ incarcerated population:

(1) Assess Evidence-Based Treatment Programs. Given the readiness of Texans to fund
alternatives to incarceration, it is necessary to begin a comprehensive search, review, and
analysis of proven treatment programs that yield the best results, in coordination with an
analysis of how probation differs from drug rehabilitation.

Focus on Programs that Reduce Crime. Evidence-based treatment programs are
an effective means for reducing crime. According to a study by the state’s Texas
Criminal Justice Policy Council, offenders who receive appropriate treatment are
four times less likely to return to prison than those who do not. Moreover, a study
by the United States Department of Justice’s National Corrections Institute found
that "tough on crime" penalties actually result in a slight increase in an individual’s
inclination toward criminal activity. On the other hand, treatment and programs,
such as cognitive skills training, result in a 15–29% decrease in an individual’s
criminal behavior.

. View Probation and Drug Treatment Separately. Oftentimes, an individual’s
addiction to drugs causes their criminal activity (such as theft), as they require funds
to feed their addiction. This individual’s problems can be addressed in two ways:
 
(1) through drug treatment, or (2) through probation. Drug treatment will best get to
the root of the criminal activity because it will address the physiological impact of the
substance on the addict and help in putting an end to the need for criminal activity
spurred by the addiction. Probation will help determine if the drug treatment
program is truly working for that individual. For instance, if an offender on
probation produces a urine analysis that tests positive for a particular drug, his/her
probation officer will be able to verify that the offender’s particular treatment
program is not working. This should not be a cause for probation revocation (as
committing another crime, like theft, would be). Not all treatment programs work
for every type of addiction, and on average, an addict relapses three times before
proper treatment. If an individual is punished with probation revocation for failure
to stop his/her illness, s/he will ultimately reenter society with the continuing need
to make poor and illegal life decisions. Judges should be given tools besides
revocations to deal with probationers poor decisions that fall short of new crimes,
and instead reserve prison space for those who are a real threat to public safety.
 

. Invest in Programs that will Yield Real Returns. Texas’ community supervision
resources are stretched to the limit. The stress created by overburdening probation
officers with non-violent offenders can ultimately allow higher risk probationers to
slip through the cracks. This is something that we cannot afford – from both a
financial and a public safety perspective. Texas should change this ongoing practice
by investing in programs (such as drug treatment programs, as mentioned above)
that could pull as many as half of our probationers out of the criminal justice system
and put them on the road to becoming productive citizens.

(2) Aid Families of the Incarcerated. Both TDCJ and the Texas Legislature should make
policy changes that recognize the importance of family in the rehabilitative and reentry
process.

Assess Family Impact. Quantitative and qualitative research on the impact of
parental incarceration on children and on other members of the immediate family is
needed. This research should address the effect of the geographic distance between
the child and parent in prison, especially with regards to family visitation, when
prisons are located in remote, rural locations.

Change TDCJ Policy. TDCJ should review its regulations in regards to mail,
phone calls, and visitation to ensure that they are family-friendly and do not have a
negative impact on incarcerated parents’ efforts to maintain family relationships and
to retain custody of their children. TDCJ should also implement parent-child
visiting programs that will allow parents to spend an extended amount of time with
their child on site at the prison. Lastly, TDCJ should re-train corrections
administrators to sensitize them to family issues.

Change State Policy. Texas should provide mentoring programs for children of
the incarcerated to boost their educational level and help prevent criminal activity
and entry into the system, as well as provide support groups for caregivers of
incarcerated children, and for the children and incarcerated parents themselves.

* * * * *
Although the cost of the development of more treatment and education programs are
perhaps the greatest difficulties of actualizing survey respondents’ collective
recommendations, the potential benefits of gaining greater public support based on faith in
an evolving Texas criminal justice system should be of chief consideration.

• Summary

In summary, the majority of this diverse pool of survey respondents believe the
following:

. The primary purpose TDCJ is reintegrating offenders into society through
rehabilitation (35%), compared to punishment of a person through confinement
(9%).

. Non-violent drug users should be put in programs outside of prison walls to
prevent them from committing a drug-related crime again (96%).

. Dollars currently spent on incarcerating non-violent offenders should be
redirected towards treatment, with the savings used in other ways, such as
education and treatment (95%).

. Probation, parole, and treatment programs should be allocated more criminal
justice budget dollars than they are currently getting (94%).

. Parole and probation officers’ job pay raises and promotions should hinge on the
successful re-entry of the individuals they oversee (68%).

. TDCJ should notify families of the incarcerated prior to visitation of the
potential unavailability of the prisoner (80%), and should provide more family
counseling services (66%).

. TDCJ should provide counseling for children with incarcerated parent(s) to
better prevent these youth from entering prison (87%), should provide children
with incarcerated parent(s) access to tutoring programs to increase their
educational success (75%), and should allow for additional parent-child contact
through increased visitation time (51%).

. Texas should spend more money on increasing high school graduation rates in
order to reduce the number of people entering prison (87%).

. TDCJ should change it policies related to visitation (57%), with families and
friends having increased visitation privileges.

. TDCJ should change its policies related to what prisoners should have direct
access to through the mail (65%), especially with regards to books, newspapers,
and magazines.

. TDCJ should uphold its policies related to prisoners’ access ball games and
weightlifting (56%), and its policies related to prisoners’ access to television sets
(50%).

. TDCJ should change its policies related to amenities (69%), with prisoners
having more access to table games, reading, artwork, and leatherwork.

. Respondents would be more willing to employ individuals convicted for drug
possession than drug distribution and especially violent crime.

In the following section, the findings derived from the comparisons of key subgroups are
discussed to illuminate how opinions varied or remained universal across survey participants.
For more information, please contact:

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
Ana Yáñez-Correa
Executive Director
602 W. 7th Street, Suite 104
Austin, Texas 78701
Tel: (512) 441-8123, ext. 109
Fax: (512) 441-4884
E-mail: acorrea@criminaljusticecoalition.org
www.criminaljusticecoalition.org

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