Reducing Texas’ prison population through release policy changes



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Texas’ prison population has grown rapidly over the last twenty years, tripling in size from 45,000 prisoners to more than 150,000 today. This report looks at ways to reduce the prison population by changing policies affecting odds of a prisoner’s release. Often, advocates focus on sentencing reform. Yet, with nearly all prisoners returning to society after serving time in prison, the release side of the prison system should be given due attention. With policy considerations of cost, public safety, racial disparity, and impact on communities, this paper looks at how policies can be adjusted to reduce the prison population using the many “back-end” policy levers that are available. Specific recommendations include giving drug offenders slightly greater odds at release and making a concerted effort to reduce the racial disparity in prison release practices.