Texas voters support sending nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of jail, according to an opinion poll from Right on Crime, a national campaign for criminal justice reform. Voters also support decriminalizing school truancy, according to the poll.
Right on Crime is a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which commissioned the poll.
Seventy-three percent of Texas voters strongly support allowing nonviolent drug offenders found guilty of possession to go to a treatment program instead of jail, according to the poll.
Sixty-one percent said more money should be spent on effective drug treatment programs rather than on the prison system.
Seventy-one percent responded that the criminal justice system should not be involved in school truancy except in severe and chronic cases.
These reforms fit with the conservative, limited-government approach taken by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said Vikrant Reddy, senior policy analyst at the foundation and coordinator of Right on Crime.
“The sheer size and scope of government is enormous,” he said. The prison system has burgeoned and it makes sense from a conservative point of view to reduce it, he said.
Criminal justice reform is an issue for both conservatives and liberals, he said.
The Texas Legislature is considering bills this session that address subjects raised in the poll, including substance abuse treatment, drug sentencing and truancy.
In Texas, truancy is a criminal offense, Reddy said. Legislation has been proposed to decriminalize it. Students who skip school shouldn’t get funneled toward the prison system, he said.
The legislature is also addressing the issue of felony thresholds, the amount of money that turns a property crime such as theft into a felony.
The Right on Crime survey found that 57 percent of Texas voters support increasing the felony threshold to $1,500 and adjusting it yearly based on inflation.
The same percentage of voters support reducing time served and allowing part of an inmate's sentence to be spent monitored under community supervision.
“The primary reason to adopt these policies is that they are the most cost-effective way to fight crime,” Right on Crime Policy Director Marc Levin said in a statement.
He said it was reassuring that Texans recognized this.