Reclassification aims to reduce the penalty for less than a gram possession offenses from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor. In doing so, Texas will improve access to treatment for people with substance use disorders while saving the state millions of dollars annually.
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What does reclassification do?
Crime rates and prison populations decline, but rates for state jail sentences increase.
Although Texas crime rates have reached a historic low and prison populations have declined statewide, the number of people sentenced to state jail for minor drug possession offenses increased between 2011 and 2015. Learn more about state jail statistics here.
Reclassification is a smart solution that makes good fiscal sense.
Texas spends more than $63 million annually to incarcerate people for possessing drugs in amounts less than a sugar packet. This staggering expenditure of tax dollars has neither reduced addiction nor improved public safety. Learn more about incarceration costs here.
- Last year, more than 7,000 people served time in a State Jail for possession for no more than a gram of a substance.
- These same individuals received little to no treatment for addiction while incarcerated, contributing to a 62 percent re-arrest rate.
- Eighty-five percent of formerly incarcerated people with a history of substance abuse return to drug use within 1 year of release, and 95 percent return to drug use within 3 years.
Reclassification increases public safety by effectively treating addiction.
By investing in treatment instead of incarceration, Texas will be better equipped to address addiction as a public health issue.
Rather than isolated time in state jails, people struggling with drug addiction need access to proven treatment options as well as family and community support to remove stigma which may hinder recovery.
By decreasing penalties for low-level possession offenses, Texas will have the resources to invest in solutions that reduce drug abuse and improve public safety such as:
- Community-based drug treatment, including non-addictive medication to combat cravings.
- Improved community supervision, which is far less costly than incarceration.
The average cost for one year of treatment for opioid addiction is $4,700 per person, while one year of imprisonment costs approximately $24,000.
Reclassification reduces collateral consequences and improves outcomes.
Evidence shows that merely creating a harsh or punitive consequence does little reduce the likelihood of future substance use but can lead to collateral consequences. Receipt of a state jail felony imposes significant consequences, ultimately inhibiting an individual’s ability to:
- Participate in the democratic process through voting
- Earn occupational licenses to support employment
- Obtain important State identification, such as a driver’s license
- Be eligible for student aid to further education opportunities
- Be eligible to receive housing assistance and avoid homelessness.
Ultimately, the elimination of a felony conviction will help people find and gain employment, support their families, and remain productive citizens while receiving needed treatment.