Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley recently announced a new initiative aimed at addressing the state’s overcrowding problem,with 23,000 prisoners in facilities designed for about 13,000. The “Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative” would consolidate the state’s fourteen prisons into four mega–prisons, costing taxpayers about $800 million. Amazingly, Bentley argues this is the most cost effective way to handle Alabama’s disastrous criminal justice system.
Instead of throwing money at the behemoth of bureaucracy that the prison complex has become, Alabama should consider an alternative model for reform pioneered by Texas.
In 2007, Texas legislators coalesced around a rare bipartisan effort to slim the country’s most bloated incarceration population. The war on drugs and tough on crime politics skyrocketed the state’s incarcerated population from about 50,000 in 1990 to a peak of 173,000 in 2010. The legislature in Austin was faced with two options—a $523 million prison construction plan or an approach focused on shrinking the amount of people they send to prison (i.e. the root of the problem). Obviously, the tough on crime stance so popular in deeply red states hadn’t stemmed the crime wave in any meaningful sense, so Texas House leaders opted for an alternative strategy.
Instead of placing first-time, nonviolent drug offenders in prison — making them more likely to adapt to the hardened prison culture and reoffend once out on release — Texas expanded drug courts that allowed users to forego prison if they agreed to comprehensive supervision, drug testing, and treatment. The new approach also eschewed the common practice of severe sentencing punishments for technical violations of probation or parole. Instead, Texas’s reforms used graduated sanctions (i.e. increasingly strict punishments for parole or probation violations as opposed to instant re-incarceration) and rehabilitation programs for drug users and the mentally ill.
Texas legislators wanted to send fewer people to prison. After all, housing prisoners is a massive taxpayer burden, with annual cost of $26,000 for just one prisoner, and Americans foot an annual bill of roughly $85 billion for corrections.
Read the rest of this piece in TownHall
Justice Scalia, father of nine and one of the longest-serving Supreme Court justices in history, was found dead on Saturday at the age of 79 in a West Texas ranch. His death could spell the end for the long-time power balance on the Supreme Court of four conservative justices, four liberal justices and a moderate. But does it also spell the end for the states’ arguments in United States v. Texas, the immigration case pending before the Court? Cato Institute legal associate Randal Meyer explains.
Read the rest on Forbes, here.
Tomorrow is Tax Freedom Day, marking the date that the U.S. as a whole will earn enough money to pay off its tax bill for the year.
The Washington-based Tax Foundation has released a report calculating Tax Freedom Day for every year since 1971, and 2015’s continues to highlight the disturbing growth of government.
First and foremost, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24 this year—three days later than last year’s date of April 21. In fact, Americans now pay more in taxes than they do in clothing, food, and housing combined.
As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, Tax Freedom Day does not account for all state spending, since governments have the tendency to rack up billions of dollars in debt and unfunded liabilities. Altogether, Tax Freedom Day would fall on May 8 if you account for federal borrowing.
It seems pretty obvious that four months of wages is an unhealthy amount for the government to demand, but some disagree. Last week, I refuted some of the most popular tax myths perpetuated by prominent progressive thought leaders like former secretary of labor Robert Reich.
Another popular myth often circulated during tax season is that high taxes have little effect on reducing economic growth. After all, the top marginal income tax rate in the U.S. was 94 percent throughout the 1950s, one of the most prosperous decades in American history.
Of course, the tax code of the 1950s was littered with so many loopholes as to bring the effective top rate down much lower. But beyond anecdotal evidence, hardline data from America’s own “laboratories of democracy”—the states—prove that lower taxes create more economic growth.
Read the rest at Rare…
Advocate Matthew La Corte was published in The Daily Caller on the Texas Republican Party’s recent reversal on immigration policy.
IIn 2012, a party policy known as the “Texas Solution” pushed to allow undocumented workers to hold jobs unfilled by U.S. citizens. Sadly, that policy was made null earlier this weekend as the party ushered in a platform which calls for more border security, no amnesty whatsoever, and ending in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants. Opposition to immigration is rationalized by the notion that immigrants cause a net drag on the economy.
Read the rest of the piece here.
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Editor Casey Given was published in the Houston Chronicle on Texas’s economic competitiveness.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, but does the bragging have to be, too? Gov. Rick Perry is stirring the policy pot yet again, having challenged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a debate during his visit to the Empire State last month.
“A debate between the governors of two of the largest states in the country on policy issues such as taxes, government spending, education, regulations and legal reform would be beneficial to our states and our country as a whole,” Perry explained on an Albany news radio show.
While Cuomo refused to take up the gauntlet, Perry should not let this denial go to his head. Texas still lags behind many states on many of the categories of competitiveness the governor mentioned.
You can read the whole article online here.
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