Spend Your Values: Smart and Safe Justice System Solutions That Put Communities First

Largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas will be facing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall by the end of this fiscal year. As a result, Texas leaders have outlined possible cuts to health services, which could make life even harder on Texans who are struggling. Texas already spends a smaller percentage on health and welfare than most other states, yet funding for corrections has increased 12 percent over time and has brought the state’s corrections budget to a staggering $3.4 billion per year.

TCJC’s policy team recognized a unique opportunity in the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic—a path to urge leadership to invest in community health and wellness, and safely divest from the bloated justice system. Through months of rigorous research, we crafted seven “Smart and Safe Solutions” that would save the state money, advance racial justice, protect communities, and foster public health. These solutions represent a top-down realignment in how taxpayer money is spent.

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Instead of addressing the underlying causes of criminality that have allowed mass incarceration to run rampant, cities and counties continue to rely heavily on the reactive — and costly — responses of policing and incarceration, cutting short people’s opportunities to find stability, support their families, continue their education, or join the workforce. Yet, an over-reliance on corrections does not make Texans safer. Studies show that mass incarceration has marginal to zero impact on crime.

Texas must stop wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars and human potential on failed justice policies. “Spend Your Values” is an evaluation of how our dollars could be stretched further on the road to a future where every Texan has access to real opportunity. Together, we can move forward in a vision of public health and safety that is fiscally responsible and morally sound.