Adult Criminal Justice System

Adult Criminal Justice System: 1993 – Present

  • 1993 – Birth of the State Jail: State jail system is created to divert individuals with low-level drug offenses from long sentences in TDCJ prisons. State jails are conceptualized as a back-up sentence for individuals who do not comply with community supervision. [Over next several years, however, tens of thousands of Texans with low-level drug offenses are sentenced directly to state jail, serving, on average, over one year and undermining original intent of state jails.]
  • 2001 – Landmark Defense Policy & Anti-Racial Policing Policy Passed: Texas enacts Fair Defense Act, which sets framework for improving indigent defense policies in Texas and, among other things, establishes a Task Force on Indigent Defense (now called the Texas Indigent Defense Commission). Governor also signs law requiring Texas law enforcement agencies to develop departmental policies on racial profiling, and compile annual reports on who they stop and search, by race.
  • 2003 – Preliminary Sentencing Reform: Shift from tough-on-crime to smart-on-crime sentiment begins. Filed policies promote use of progressive sanctions for drug offenses involving possession of small amounts of certain controlled substances (signed into law), shortened and strengthened probation term lengths, and stronger treatment infrastructure. But state budget shortfall results in devastating cuts to probation, treatment, and parole – driving prisons to breaking point.
  • 2005 – Diversion Funding: Mass mobilization of individuals advocating for smart-on-crime reforms results in passage of policies that increase accountability for drug task forces and increase accessibility to identification cards for previously incarcerated individuals, while also allocating additional funds for probation.
  • January 2007 – Alarming Prison Projections: Texas faces projected prison population increase of up to 17,000 inmates by 2012 (in addition to nearly 6,000 beds added between 2004 and 2007) if Texas’ pace of incarceration continues.
  • 2007 Legislative Session – Justice Reinvestment: Rather than agreeing to spend $2.63 billion over five years on new prison construction and operations, policy-makers work collaboratively and diligently to reinvest fraction of this amount – $241 million – in probation, parole, treatment beds, etc.
  • 2011 – Prison Closure: Historical shifts result in Texas’ first prison closure (Sugar Land Facility).
  • 2011-2012 – Sunset Review of Criminal Justice Agencies: Sunset Advisory Commission reviews Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Community Justice Assistance Division, Parole Board, and other agencies. Advocates call for major improvements in all areas.
  • 2003-2013 – Smart-on-Crime Policy Passage & Implementation: 105 new crime-reduction strategies positively change course of criminal justice and reentry systems, resulting in taxpayer savings and falling crime rates in Texas. We are seeing a greater emphasis on indigent defense delivery, fewer probation/parole revocations, fewer persons sentenced to prison, higher parole approval rates, and historic advances in reentry.
  • 2013 – Facility Closure Approved: State officials approve upcoming closure of two private facilities, reflecting continued shift in attitude among Texas leadership, amidst falling crime rates and better evidence of alternatives.

Click here to download a PDF copy of Adult and Juvenile System Reforms in Texas.

To learn more about TCJC’s adult criminal justice-related projects, please visit “TCJC Projects” on our home page. Click here to review TCJC’s previous legislative wrap-ups.