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Texas Prisons Notes

[1] "In summary, existing research seems to indicate that there is little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use. 

Perceived legal risk explains very little in the variance of individual drug use." 

-- The White House [ONDCP] 2001 report from the National Research Council, "Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us."  

"The study compared 280 program participants [who were not sent to prison] with 130 drug offenders who served prison terms. It found that those in the Brooklyn program were 67 percent less likely to return to prison. Graduates also were 3 1/2 times more likely to have a job after they left the program than before they went in, the study found. 

The five-year CASA evaluation found that participants who completed the program and graduated were 33 percent less likely to be rearrested, 45 percent less likely to be reconvicted, and 87 percent less likely to return to prison, than the comparable prison group." 

- by Devlin Barrett, Associated Press, March 12, 2003 

See: Prison for more information 

[2] "It is clear that most persons who take illicit drugs are experimental or socio-recreational users ... The typical drug user is scarcely distinguishable from the typical citizen" 

- National Association of Public Health Policy [Journal of Public Health Policy, October 1999]

"The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicates that about 3 million Americans have used heroin in their lifetimes; of them, 15 percent had used it in the last year, 4 percent in the last month.  These numbers suggest that the vast majority of heroin users either never become addicted or, if they do, manage to give the drug up." 

- Reason Magazine, 6-1-03, "The Surprising Truth About Heroin And Addiction," by Jacob Sullum, editor www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v03/n747/a11.html

Also see: Science 

[3] "Department of corrections data show that about a fourth of those initially imprisoned for nonviolent crimes are sentenced for a second time for committing a violent offense. Whatever else it reflects, this pattern highlights the possibility that prison serves to transmit violent habits and values rather than to reduce them." 

- Craig Haney, Ph.D., and Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., "The Past and Future of U.S. Prison Policy: Twenty-five Years After the Stanford Prison Experiment," American Psychologist, Vol. 53, No. 7 (July 1998) 

[4] Extracts from Houston Chronicle Editorials, 1-11-03 and 4-29-03: 

"Besides the massive cost of locking up so many small-time offenders, felony convictions have a positively ruinous effect on lives, do next to nothing to help drug abusers overcome addictions and channel penny-ante addicts into lives of more serious crime. 

"Harris County data showed that 62 percent of those convicted for less than 1 gram of drugs were black out of a local population that is only 18 percent black. 

"... a whopping 77 percent of the 58,000 drug convictions local prosecutors won during the past five years involved a drug amount of less than one gram. Taxpayers footed the tab for sending 35,000 of these small-time offenders - a disproportionate number of whom were black and almost all of whom were poor - to jail or prison. 

"People who otherwise could be productive members of society are spending years away from their children, and bearing the burden to employment, voting and housing of a permanent 'felon' label. For many, a completed sentence doesn't mean turning over a new leaf but embarking on new crimes for want of an alternative. 

"That's not good for families, general productivity or, for that matter, public safety." 

[5] "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%. 

- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Summary Report 1998 

For more information: See: Race


"Prisons as a Growth Industry in Rural America: An Exploratory Discussion of the Effects on Young African American Men in the Inner Cities," by Tracy Huling, consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.


[6] " ... consider indirect costs, such as welfare to families when the wage earner is imprisoned; loss of taxes; lost income to the community; loss to creditors; or the costs of readjustment when prisoners are released. 

Political leaders and candidates will insist on being "tough on crime," but there is no reason such toughness should be harnessed to an irresponsible lack of concern for costs and effectiveness." 

- John L. Kane Jr., U.S. Senior District Judge, 1997 article in Denver Post  

In "Collateral Casualties: Children of Incarcerated Drug Offenders in New York," Human Rights Watch presents a statistical snapshot developed from state and federal data. New York has much less than half the Texas number of prisoners. Among the findings: 

An estimated 23,537 children currently have parents in New York prisons convicted of drug charges. An estimated 11,113 currently incarcerated New York drug offenders are parents of children. Since 1980, an estimated 124,496 children have had at least one parent imprisoned in New York on drug charges. Some 50 percent of mothers and fathers in New York prisons for drug convictions do not receive visits from their children. 

" ... states are spending more on building prisons than universities. From 1987 to 1995, money spent by states for prisons rose by 30 percent while expenditures for universities dropped by 19 percent." 

-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6-6-99 

[7] It takes almost 30 grams to make one ounce. In a system where tons of drugs have been seized by law enforcement with no effect on supply or use, the total weight of all drugs involved in 45,000 convictions over 5 years in Harris County was less than 100 pounds. About half of those convicted were sent to prison or jail. 

[8] Texas prisons: A shameful record. 

... the Texas population living in restricted settings such as prisons grew by 69 percent in the last decade, more than three times as fast as in the country as a whole and dwarfing the institutionalized growth rate in other states. 

Approximately 49,316 people lived in state prisons in 1990, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Today, that number hovers around 147,000 ... 

-- Austin American-Statesman, May 25, 2001

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