Why Spending on Peer Support Groups in Texas Jails Could Reduce Recidivism Rates

Aug 6, 2014

The start of the next Texas legislative session is getting close enough that advocacy groups are urging support for their areas of interest. Today, a local organization released a report [click here for the PDF]  that suggests if the state spends more money on peer support groups in county jails, the recidivism rate would drop.

In recent years, law enforcement in Texas has been vocal about county jails serving as de facto mental health providers for inmates.

"So we are at how can we reduce that constant revolving door of individuals with mental illness coming in and out of the jail system," says Katharine Ligon, a mental health policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. "So hopefully a peer support program could help with that reentry process."

The report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities recommends putting state dollars toward programs in county jails to pair inmates who have mental illness with someone who’s gone through a recovery process and can help guide the inmate find a place to live and get health services outside jail.  

"This can be an issue in which Republicans, Democrats…whomever will be able to come together and work collectively on an issue like this -- saving people’s lives and saving dollars for the local and state budgets," Ligon says.

According to the report, up to 40 percent of Texas jail bookings in 2013 involved people who had received public mental health services, and treatment for these inmates can cost up to three times as much as for inmates without mental illness.