Texas 2036 Report
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Policy Pillars

Justice & Safety

Pillar 06
Pillar 06

Texas ensures the safety and fair treatment of Texans.

Focus

Over the past few decades, Texas has enjoyed tremendous economic growth and prosperity, but not all Texans have the same access to opportunity and quality of life. With our state’s future prosperity increasingly dependent on the talents of our population, it is important that the state do more to help all Texans succeed. A number of often-interrelated factors hold many people back, including unsafe neighborhoods, food and housing insecurity, and traumatic experiences. By investing early in evidence-based programs that focus on such factors, Texas can reduce lost potential and future costs to society, taxpayers, and individuals. We can better protect our communities and begin to break long cycles of poverty and incarceration. State leaders should collaborate across justice and safety net systems to ensure all partners — state agencies, local governments, and private sector entities — spend tax dollars most effectively.

Texas’s civil and criminal justice systems face different pressures, and both should strive for data-informed improvements. While the Texas criminal justice system has three-year recidivism rates better than the national average, these numbers — 63% in 2018 for state jails and 46% for state prisons
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2018 data reflects average of 3-year re-arrest rate for cohorts released in 2013, 2014, and 2015; Texas Legislative Budget Board Staff Report, Statewide Criminal and Juvenile Justice Recidivism and Revocation Rates, 2019. http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/documents/publications/policy_report/4914_recividism_revocation_rates_jan2019.pdf.

— still show room for significant improvement. Likewise, the civil court system is perceived by the business community as one of the nation’s least fair and reasonable, ranking 38th in the nation in a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey.
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U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, Ranking the States: A Survey of the Fairness and Reasonableness of State Liability Systems, 2019. https://www.instituteforlegalreform.com/uploads/pdfs/2019_Harris_Poll_State_Lawsuit_Climate_Ranking_the_States.pdf.

As a state, we are far stronger when all Texans participate to the best of their abilities. By working to uphold an effective, efficient, and impartial justice system, and by offering people in crisis resources to meet basic needs, Texas can expand access to opportunity and sustain prosperity into the future.

Goal and Targets for Texas 2036
Goal #25 - Public Safety: Texans are protected from threats to their well-being and property
• Target: Texas ranks among the nine lowest in its 12-state peer group for violent crimes rates and remains among the nine lowest for property crime rates.
• Baseline: Texas is currently ranked in the bottom half for both violent crime and property crime rates.
Goal #26 - Protection for the Vulnerable:: Texas protects the vulnerable from traumatic experiences
• Target: Texas ranks among the nine lowest peer states for incidence of adverse childhood experiences.
• Baseline: Texas currently ranks sixth among peer states.
Goal #27 - Safety Net: Texans have access to resources to meet basic needs when they are in crisis
• Target: Texas ranks among the three lowest peer states for the population below the supplemental poverty line.
• Baseline: Texas is currently ranked ninth.
Goal #28 - Justice System: Texans are served effectively, efficiently, and impartially by the justice system
• Target: Texas has a lower rate of recidivism than the national average and ranks among the top 3 peer states for its lawsuit climate.
• Baseline: Texas currently has a better-than-average recidivism rate and is ranked seventh in legal climate among peer states

Context

Federal, state, and local governments all play roles in providing resources and services for Texans in need. The federal government funds the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant, of which Texas receives $860 million annually;
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, TANF and MOE Spending and Transfers by Activity, 2018. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ofa/fy2018_tanf_and_moe_state_piecharts_b508.pdf.

the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides $4.8 billion;
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U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, SNAP Data Tables, FY 2019. https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition.assistance-program-snap

and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) grant, which provides $478 million.
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US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services, WIC Program Grant Levels by Fiscal Year, 2019. https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/wic.program-grant-levels-fy

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), with a $38.0 billion annual operating budget, oversees large programs such as TANF and SNAP and operates more than 200 other programs (including Texas’s Medicaid managed care system).
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Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Operating Budget, Fiscal Year 2020. https://hhs.texas.gov/sites/default/files/documents/about. hhs/budget-planning/2020-operating-budget.pdf.

The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) manages programs that protect children, the elderly, and adults with disabilities in Texas from abuse and neglect, and it partners with community-based programs for prevention and early intervention of juvenile delinquency and child abuse and neglect.
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Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Annual Report, 2019. https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/About_DFPS/Annual_Report/2019/default. asp

Texas’s criminal justice system is highly decentralized. Two hundred fifty-four different county justice systems are responsible for promoting community safety and adjudicating cases.
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Office of Court Administration, Annual Statistical Report for the Texas Judiciary, Fiscal Year 2019, p. iv. https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1445760/fy.19-annual-statistical-report.pdf.

These systems need to balance the goals of advancing public safety and appropriately punishing crime, and of rehabilitating and upholding the constitutional rights of individuals with justice system involvement.
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Texas Politics Project, Texas Politics, 4th Edition (2018). Soomo Learning. (Printed version), Chapter 7: The Justice System, p. 222-223.

In Texas, as in most states, local jurisdictions fund and oversee most law enforcement activity, prosecution of cases, and the court system. Texas has 465 district courts serving as the primary trial courts for serious criminal and civil issues. More than 2,000 additional county and municipal courts handle less serious matters such as traffic citations and divorces. In 2018, Texas courts handled 8.6 million cases, 23 times the number of all federal court cases that year.
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Court cases from Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, The State of the Judiciary in Texas, An Address to . the 86th Legislature, February 6, 2019. https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1443500/soj2019.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2019.

For the 2020-2021 biennium, the Legislature appropriated $12.5 billion for public safety and criminal justice, plus another $934 million to support the judiciary; together, these funds constitute 5% of the state budget.
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Legislative Budget Board, Updated 2018-19 Base and 2020-21 Appropriations Tables, by Article (September 2019), All Funds, 2019. https://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Documents/Publications/Other/Adjusted_MOF_Tables.pdf.

These figures do not include significant local expenditures on various components of the system.
Two state agencies provide oversight for corrections. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates 106 state correctional facilities (including 89 prisons for those convicted of violent offenses
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State prison sentences assigned for third-degree felonies or higher (e.g., murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, fraud, aggravated assault, child molestation, transmission of pornography).

and 17 state jails for less serious convictions
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State jail sentences assigned for fourth-degree felonies (e.g., involuntary manslaughter, burglary, larceny, resisting arrest); sentences are less than 2 years.

), which held approximately 136,000 people in 2018.
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Texas Board of Criminal Justice, Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2020, https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/documents/bfd/FY2020_Operating_Budget_LBB.pdf

The TDCJ spends $2.9 billion each year to incarcerate adults.
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Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Agency Operating Budget 2020. https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/documents/bfd/FY2020_Operating_Budget.pdf.

It also provides funding for 123 adult probation departments overseen by local judicial boards. In 2018, local judges ordered nearly 370,000 Texans to community supervision.
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Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Community Supervision in Texas, 2018. https://www.tdcj.texas.gov/documents/cjad/CJAD_Community_Supervision_in_TX_Fact_Sheet.pdf.

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) works in partnership with counties and local juvenile boards to administer services for the more than 40,000 juveniles who are arrested or referred each year.
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Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Community Juvenile Justice Appropriations, Riders and Special Diversion Programs, 2019. https://www.tjjd.texas.gov/index.php/doc-library/send/338-reports-to-the-governor-and.legislative-budget-board/2285-tjjd-annual-report-to-the-governor-and.legislative-budget-board-2019.

TJJD runs five secure state institutions for juveniles and oversees 86 locally operated secure facilities, with a budget of roughly $330 million.