TDCJ Statistical Reporting

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for statistics.  When I was a kid, I used to collect baseball cards.  A LOT of baseball cards.  My bedroom floor was covered with them, mainly Topps brand cards, and lots more than I’d ever care to admit. Ok, I just did.  This was back when baseball cards didn’t cost as much as an entree at a decent restaurant.  I don’t think I stopped playing with all those cards until I became more interested in having a car or a girlfriend, or, if things went really well, both.  I digress…  Anyway, one of my favorite parts about collecting baseball cards was the treasure trove of statistical information contained on the backside of each and every card.
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Back then, on any given day, I might have all the catchers in one pile, organized by who had the most home runs the previous year, or the pitchers arranged by height, ERA, age, or who had the highest number # of strikeouts in their careers.  I think my favorite stat was batting average.  The kings were guys like Rod Carew, George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, and yeah, Pete Rose too.  These players knew how to get on base a lot of different ways, and I admired them for it.
There were so many ways to look at player statistics that I never seemed to run out of things to do with my baseball cards.  Funny thing is, with all those cards, and all those “interesting” things I did with them, it helped me to appreciate how, in the real world, numbers really can provide a person with an awful lot of useful information.
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Given my childhood dementia-inducing hobby, you can imagine how happy I was the other day when I stumbled upon a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) publication called “Statistical Report -Fiscal Year 2010”.  I’ve been on their website many times, but for some reason, I’d never seen the statistical reports.  This report, released annually, and not to be confused with the “Annual Report”, is put together by “Executive Services” within TDCJ.  It contains more than 50 pages of charts, tables, lists, and other creative assortments of data.  It’s not nearly as enjoyable as my baseball cards once were, but there is some good stuff in this report, particularly for a guy like me, who represents TDCJ “Offenders” in connection with their desire to make parole.
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RATIO OF PRISONERS TO PAROLEES
I was surprised to see that the number of prisoners exceeds the number of parolees, by a lot.  I don’t know why I always assumed that the number of parolees far exceeded the number of prisoners, but I did, and I was wrong.  We have about 155,000 people in Texas state prisons, and another 100,000 on parole.  That’s a lot of people, even in a big state like Texas.  Of course, this number doesn’t even include the inmate population in all of the gazillion different county jails throughout the state, and it also does not include the number of people on probation.  I’m also going to try to figure out a rough estimate of that number of people sometime.  Admittedly, there is some overlap between the groups, but that topic is for another day…
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According to my review of last year’s budget information, from another report, of course, it costs about $1,500 per year to keep someone on parole, and it costs approximately $30,000 per year to keep them in prison.  You don’t need a Phd in Mathematics from M.I.T. to see that the most logical way to ease the budgetary crisis at TDCJ would be to make the number of prisoners lower, and make the number of parolees higher. If we had 155,000 people on parole, and had 100,000 in prison, instead of the other way around, the state would theoretically save 1.5 billion dollars per year.  That’s some serious dinero!
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Well, you say, it’s not that simple, right?  Sure, but it’s never really simple.  The prison industry has its lobbiests, and then there are all those people who want to “lock ’em up and throw away the key”.  Unfortunately, this highly informed, highly educated, highly enlightened type of person also likes to vote.  Just don’t go asking him to pay the taxes necessary to keep the “bad guys” locked up. You see, it’s taxes, and only taxes, that pay for the incarceration of human beings.  While tuition at state colleges and universities continues to soar higher and higher, few seem to recognize that $30,000 per year could be spent educating a talented young person of modest means, or maybe even two.  Or, it could be used to incarcerate someone who has a drug problem and likes to drive with an expired registration sticker.

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