Texas leads the nation in inmate population. Costing the state 3.3 billion dollars every year.
One former state prison official says racial discrimination and politics play a major role in that.
Tougher state and federal sentencing is one of the main reason for the ballooning prison population. Legal experts say new laws will increase that population because punishment ranges are being extended every year. So people will get longer sentences. But some say it's a problem that is much more deeply rooted in Texas history. For instance 1 in 9 inmates are of black males. With hispanics being a close second.
"Our system in Texas is absolutely broken that's why all these people are coming out of prison now on DNA results. In 50 years we'll look back and we'll see our system incarcerated lots of innocent people. Former Texas Prison Board Chair Selden Hale said. Hale says he believes the numbers are more like 3 in one hundred blacks that are locked up and 4 and 100 hispanic.
To reduce the inmate population, Hale says small offenses shouldn't carry such heavy punishments. That would be one way to combat the ballooning incarceration rates in Texas. Because new laws requiring longer sentences are putting a strain on the system.
"The really bad people that the prison administrators know need to be incarcerated for long periods of time. It's hard to keep them in there and provide for them when the system is cluttered up with what we call lightweights." Hale says those lightweights are people with non- violent offenses light DWI and marijuana charges. He further adds if the criminal justice system decriminalizes these acts, more than half of the prison population would be non existent.
Other law enforcement officials agree, but they say there's no quick fix on what to do with the substance abuse epidemic.