New Interactive Tool Highlights the Cost and Health Risks of Pretrial Incarceration in Texas

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
August 21, 2020 2:00 pm

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HOUSTON – The ACLU of Texas has launched a free interactive online tool – the Texas Jails Data Dashboard – that allows people to see the enormous financial costs associated with pretrial incarceration and the dangers of mass incarceration in a COVID-19 environment.

The Texas Jails Data Dashboard culls information from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and includes visualizations of jail population data going back to 1998. It provides comparisons in pretrial incarceration rates between counties and helps visually illustrate the cost to local taxpayers of high rates of pretrial incarceration. Texas taxpayers would save more than $195 million annually based on a 25 percent reduction in jail populations statewide, according to dashboard data.

The dashboard also allows policymakers and journalists to see how incarceration rates and COVID-19 cases in jails have changed since January.

“Texas collects basic jail data, but it’s difficult for the public to access and analyze for themselves,” said Nick Hudson, policy and advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Texas. “This tool is intended to make publicly available data about Texas jails accessible and actionable by moving advocates, journalists and policymakers to understanding. We hope it shines a light on the enormous costs of pretrial detention in Texas, especially during this dangerous pandemic.”

Other data highlights from the dashboard show that:

  • Jail populations in many Texas counties dropped in April in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, but that in many cases jail populations are on the rise again;
  • There are thousands of reported COVID-19 infections among guards and incarcerated people;
  • The majority of individuals detained in Texas jails are held pre-trial, and in most cases, these people are presumed innocent but are only kept in jail because of their inability to afford cash bail.

The Texas Jails Data Dashboard was built in partnership with January Advisors, a data science and technology consulting firm based in Houston.

The dashboard can be accessed here:

A walkthrough of the site is available here:

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