A slew of bills to enhance criminal penalties once again engulfs the Texas Legislature. Frequently, these bills are accompanied by fiscal notes that do not identify the actual costs of implementation, particularly the cumulative effect of enhancements in creating the need to build new prisons. Each new prison bed costs $60,000.

Fortunately, legislation has been filed SB 164 to address this problem. This legislation would require that each bill involving criminal penalties be accompanied by a “criminal justice policy impact statement” that would estimate the number of criminal cases the bill will impact, the fiscal impact of imprisoning those persons, and the likelihood that the legislation will create the need for additional prison capacity.

Especially in our current budget situation, our lawmakers need to know in advance when a criminal justice proposal will cost taxpayers more money and then assess whether the benefits to the public outweigh those costs.

– Marc Levin