Sat. May 25th, 2024

IT is the American state known for a hardline attitude to crime that has made it the incarceration capital of the Western world.

Now here, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has vowed he will bring in a “Texas-style” penal system.

Texas is known for a hardline attitude to crime

EPAJustice Sec Alex Chalk has vowed he will bring in the ‘Texas-style’ penal system[/caption]

The most serious offenders, such as murderers and rapists, will serve their full sentences — but also like in Texas, to ease prison overcrowding, fewer lower-level offenders will be banged up.

They will instead do community service such as building work and cleaning the streets.

The approach was introduced in Texas in 2007 — with remarkable results.

Crime fell by 29 per cent.

Republican politician Jerry Madden was instrumental in the reform 16 years ago which reduced pressure on the Lone-Star state’s overstretched jails.

He told The Sun on Sunday: “God bless Texas, we’ve been highly successful.

Reforms did exactly what they were supposed to do, we’ve had the room in prison for the worst of our people.

We should have the space to lock up those people we’re afraid of until we’re sure they’re not a danger to society.”

Whole-life jail terms

Britain is now looking to Texas as our prison system reaches breaking point, with governors warning there are only around 500 spaces left.

Mr Chalk last week vowed to get tougher on the worst crimes.

He said: “We will ensure rapists spend the entirety of their sentence in prison so victims get the justice they deserve and the British people are protected.

“No longer will perpetrators walk out of prison after even two-thirds of their sentence. A 15-year sentence will mean 15 years in.”

He pointed out the reoffending rate for lags serving less than a year is 50 per cent, and added: “There are alternatives to having low-level offenders languishing in prison.”

Among the Texas reforms in 2007 was making probation, not prison, the mandatory sentence for first-time, non-violent offenders.

They now get community orders instead of jail.

Probation is strict and they often wear ankle tags.

Mr Madden added: “We’ve cut the number of people in prison by about 40,000 and that saves you roughly $20,000 (£16,500) per person per year. We wanted to create space in prisons for the worst of our people while keeping others under com-munity supervision. The reforms did what we hoped and we’ve had people from Australia, England and other states come here to see.”

To ease prison overcrowding, fewer lower-level offenders are banged up in Texas

A decade after the changes there had been a 29 per cent fall in crime rates, which reached their lowest since 1968.

Even with 11,000 more people on parole, they carried out 17 per cent fewer crimes.

That is perhaps because Texas still has super-tough jail terms for repeat and serious offenders.

Out of every 100,000 citizens, 840 are doing time behind bars, whereas in the UK that figure is 127.

Those found guilty of murder in the no-nonsense state of Texas have two choices — capital punishment or a whole-life jail term.

Texas put 578 prisoners to death by lethal injection from 1976 to 2022, making it the US’s execution capital.

The death penalty was suspended in Britain in 1965 and permanently abolished for all crimes in 1998.

In the past 30 years we have seen an 80 per cent rise in our prison population and we have the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe, with 88,000 locked up.

Reforms in Texas were motivated by the huge cost of it’s penal system at the time, with £2.5billion a year being spent on prisons and parole.

Britain is now in a similar place, with the prison estate just 500 places away from its full capacity of 88,782.

Among the Texas prison reforms in 2007 was making probation, not prison, the mandatory sentence for first-time

GettyReforms in Texas were motivated by the huge cost of it’s penal system at the time[/caption]

In 2021/22 taxpayers were hit for £3.75billion for running jails in England and Wales.

Criminal justice expert Scott Henson insists that despite putting fewer people behind bars, Texas remains tough on crime.

The Texas native said: “Texas gives out these crazy-long sentences. We have people on 40-year and 50-year sentences for first-degree felonies, which include attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault. The epicentre of global mass incarceration is the western wing of the old Confederacy — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Texas is by far the big dog among those. We are why America has these astronomically high incarceration rates.”

Meanwhile over here, University of Surrey criminologist Professor Melissa Hamilton, who lived in Texas for 23 years, sounded a word of caution over the UK copying the Texan model.

She said: “We can never really link any criminal justice reform to an increasing or decreasing crime rate. So many things affect crime rates. They dropped after the reforms but also dropped across the rest of the country.”

Jacqui Edwards, 65, from Cleethorpes, North East Lincs, whose daughter Katie Webber was beaten and abused by Ian Huntley as a schoolgirl, last night welcomed plans for Texas-style sentencing in this country.

Katie, now 43, met Huntley when she was aged 15, and later fled from 15 months of terrible abuse and control when she was pregnant with his baby.

She almost lost her unborn daughter Samantha — now Jacqui’s eldest granddaughter — when the beast pushed her down the stairs at their home.

Huntley, 49, is serving life in prison, with a minimum term of 40 years, for the murder of ten-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chap-man in Soham, Cambs, in 2002.

Jacqui believes the full tariff for such serious crimes should be served.

She said: “Murderers like Huntley should know that life means life and the introduction of Texas-style sentencing means this will now happen.

“I welcome the Government fin-ally getting tough on crime and the worst criminals in our society.

“I live in fear that one day Huntley will be freed to terrorise my family and I won’t be here to protect my daughter and my grand-daughter. If he never gets out I will be able to rest easier. He is a cold-hearted child killer.”

She added of the Government plans: “Making space in our prisons to ensure the worst criminals of our society — murderers, paedo-philes and rapists — stay under lock and key for their whole prison sentences has been a long time coming.

We have had years of promises about getting tough on criminals and it can only be a good thing that this is finally here.

“The shoplifters should be made to work for the people they stole off, free of charge, or clean public toilets and litter-pick on our streets, rather than fill up the prisons.

“And it was never right that full sentences weren’t served for the most serious of crimes because of the pressure for space. Getting out after two thirds of a sentence is not a full sentence served.

“The victims have to live with what they did to them, for their whole lives.”

GettySmall time offenders in Texas are put to work on construction projects as community service[/caption]

The UK is looking to copy this penal system


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