NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Tackled Crime -- And Got Results

September 20, 2000

With the governor of Texas running for the White House, the state and the policies of George W. Bush are under scrutiny -- with crime issues attracting particular attention. Experts agree that Bush has pursued tough policies against criminals and the statistics show that crime in the Lone Star State is down. But some analysts refuse to acknowledge that the policies are connected to the outcome.

The Justice Policy Institute states in a study: "Despite the simplistic connection drawn by some that harsher crime policies lead to safer communities, there is little evidence that Texas' severe correctional system is responsible for the drop in crime."

But analysts respond that if punishment is not a deterrent, what is? In fact, there is ample evidence that criminal sanctions do deter crime.

  • At the end of the 1980s, crime in Texas was 40 percent above national rates and its prison population was 5 percent below national rates.
  • Now however, a Kansas company called the Morgan Quitno Press, which prides itself on its objectivity, ranks Texas as the 17th most dangerous state in the nation -- a dramatic improvement from the sixth place it held in 1993.
  • During the 1990s, every FBI-reported crime except aggravated assault declined more in Texas than in the nation -- led by a murder rate decline of 57 percent versus a 38 percent decline nationwide.
  • What set in motion the turnaround was that during the 1990s voters overwhelmingly approved two prison bond issues, and corrections authorities added 100,000 beds and nearly 80 lock-ups.

Progress against juvenile crime has been particularly evident. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, juvenile crime shot up -- far outpacing adult crime -- and Gov. George W. Bush campaigned on tougher policies toward youths. During the last three years, juvenile crime fell 16 percent while the Texas Youth Commission population has risen 51 percent.

Source: Morgan Reynolds (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Don't Mess With Texas on Crime," Washington Times, September 20, 2000.


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