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Report: Texas Prisoners Spending More Time Behind Bars

Texas Tribune

The amount of time Texas prisoners spent behind bars increased by a third since 1990, according to a report by the Pew Center on the States. The average inmate spent an extra eight months in prison in 2009 compared to 1990, costing the state an additional $620 million that year. 

The average prisoner in Texas served 2 years, nine months in prison in 2009. The typical cost of keeping someone incarcerated in Texas about $1,800 per month.

Much of the increase in time served happened in the 1990s, according to Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast, a blog focused on criminal justice in Texas.

“At a time when the Texas legislature has massive budget problems and the [Texas] Department of Criminal Justice is falling short on its funding for prisoner health care and can’t afford its treatment services, this is a huge number," Henson said. "This is a lot of money.” 

Nationally, there was a 36 percent increase in time served from 1990 to 2009. Florida saw the most dramatic gains in lengths of prison sentences: 166 percent.  

“In most states, legislatures are responsible for creating and approving changes in sentencing policy,” the report states. “Beyond this baseline, states’ approaches to shaping sentencing vary considerably. In Texas and Georgia, judges in most cases have the authority to sentence anywhere within broad statutory ranges, which can stretch from probation all the way to 20 years in prison and beyond.”

Other Texas stats from the study:

  • Average time served for violent crimes increased 44 percent.
  • Average time served for property crimes increased 15 percent.
  • Average time served for drug crimes increased 14 percent.
Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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