Attitudes about Crime and Criminal Justice Policy in Texas:

Special Legislative Report -

2003 Texas Crime Poll

Special Legislative Survey

 

 

 

Dennis R. Longmire, Ph.D.

Professor and Director

Survey Research Program

 

Scott Vollum, M.P.P.

Doctoral Fellow

 

 

 

 

Criminal Justice Center

Survey Research Program

Sam Houston State University

Huntsville, Texas 77341

(936) 294-1651

e-mail: longmire@shsu.edu

http://www.shsu.edu/cjcenter/College/srpdex.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended citation:

 

 

Longmire, Dennis R. & Scott Vollum (2003). Attitudes about Crime and Criminal Justice Policy in Texas: Special Legislative Report 2003 Texas Crime Poll -Special Legislative Survey. Huntsville, Texas: College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University. http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/2003_Legislative_Report.html


Introduction

 

This Special Legislative Report was prepared as a resource document related to several Bills currently being considered by the Texas State Legislature. It draws from data included in the 2003 Texas Crime Poll Special Legislative Survey, the 35th statewide public opinion survey completed under the auspices of Sam Houston State University’s Criminal Justice Center. The Criminal Justice Center was established by the Texas Legislature in 1963 when it passed House Resolution 469. This resolution called for Sam Houston State University to work in collaboration with the Texas Department of Corrections to establish a program of excellence with four objectives:

 

1)             establish degree programs for individuals seeking careers in criminal justice;

2)             provide continuing education programs for professionals already employed in the field of criminal justice;

3)             conduct research on the problems of crime and the administration of justice; and

4)             provide technical assistance to criminal justice agencies.

 

The 2003 Texas Crime Poll Special Legislative Survey and all activities conducted under the auspices of the Criminal Justice Center’s Survey Research Program help to fulfill the third of these objectives by reporting information on public opinions regarding criminal justice and related issues. The first Texas Crime Poll was completed in 1977 and surveys have been repeated annually since that date with multiple surveys completed in several of these years. Copies of the Final Reports for each of these surveys are available for review at the Center’s web-site located at http://www.shsu.edu/cjcenter/College/srpdex.html. The general purpose of these surveys is to provide legislators, public officials, and Texas residents with a reliable source of information about citizens’ opinions and attitudes concerning crime and criminal justice related topics.

 

The 2003 Texas Crime Poll Special Legislative Survey included a series of questions designed to ascertain Texans' attitudes about a variety of crime and justice related topics. Questions regarding several Bills currently being considered during the 78th Legislative Session in Texas were included.

 

A general discussion of the survey’s methodology and a description of the respondents to the special legislative survey is followed by simple frequency distributions of responses to each question included in the survey. Ad Hoc arrangements can be made for further analysis, interpretation of findings, and/or testimony as a “Resource Witness.” Please contact Dr. Dennis R. Longmire at the Survey Research Program for further assistance.

 


SECTION 1: The 2003 Special Legislative Survey and Characteristics of the Sample

 

The 2003 Texas Crime Poll Special Legislative Survey involved a statewide postal survey designed and completed by the Criminal Justice Center’s Survey Research Program at Sam Houston State University. In February of 2003, surveys were sent via mail to 617 households and 305 were returned completed. The overall response rate was 49%.

 

The data presented in Table 1 show the age, ethnicity/race, and gender of the participants in the 2003 survey. The size of this year’s sample size allows general frequencies reported to fall within a margin of error of (+/-) 4.5% Caution should be exercised when interpreting the results of this survey because the sample under-represents ethnic minorities and women. The sample also over-represents older Texans and those with higher levels of education.

 

Table 1: Age, race, and gender of respondents

 

                                                            % of Total (N = 305)

 

Age

 

18 - 29

3 (10)

30 - 44

22 (66)

45 - 61

45 (136)

Over 61

30 (92)

Refused

 

0.3 (1)

 

Ethnicity

 

White

84 (257)

Black/or African American

4 (11)

Hispanic

7 (20)

Other

5 (16)

Refused/Don’t Know

0.3 (1)

 

 

Gender

 

Male

65 (199)

Female

35 (105)

Refused

 

0.3 (1)

 

 

The following tables and figures show the simple frequency distributions of responses to the questions included in the survey. The specific Bill Number and principal Author are also included.

 

 


HB226 (Smith): Sobriety Checkpoints

 

Survey Item: From time to time, law enforcement agencies want to set up “sobriety checkpoints” where they stop all vehicles passing through a designated area and interview the drivers of those vehicles to determine whether or not they are under the influence of alcohol. How do you feel about the use of these checkpoints?

 

 


 

 


 



 

 


HB255 (Hochberg): Tuition for Criminal Justice Practitioners

 


Survey Item: Do you support legislation that would exempt certified law enforcement officers from paying tuition and fees for coursework they complete toward a criminal justice degree or certification?

 

 


 

 


Survey Item: Do you support legislation that would exempt all criminal justice professionals from paying tuition and fees for coursework they complete toward a criminal justice degree or certification?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 



HB255 (Hochberg): Tuition for Criminal Justice Practitioners (continued)

 

Survey Item: Exempting criminal justice professionals from tuition and fees would cost some universities as much as $500,000 per year. If you responded “Yes” to either items…above, which of the following best represents your thoughts on how these losses should be addressed? (Select only ONE of the following.)

 

 


 

 


 

 

 



HJR 13 (Wollens) Constitutional Amendment regarding Political Contributions for Judicial Candidates

 

Survey Item: How strongly do you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment prohibiting judicial candidates from accepting political contributions except during the year preceding and the six months following an election?

 

 

 


 

 


 



HB 62 (Wise) Anatomically Detailed Dolls, Mannequins, or Drawings

 

Survey Item: On occasion, a Court may want to allow the use of an anatomically detailed doll, mannequin, or drawing to assist a child younger than 16 years of age who is providing testimony in the prosecution of an offense involving sexual conduct. How strongly do you favor or oppose allowing judges to authorize this practice?

 

 


 

 


 



HB 60 (Wise) Possession of Child Pornography Electronically

 

Survey Item: Current laws concerning the possession of child pornography do not differentiate between the punishment of people who acquire the images through “conventional methods” and those who acquire the images through the use of a computer or other electronic technology (e.g. telephone lines, cable or satellite connections). Which of the following best describes what you think about the issue?

 

Offenders who acquire child pornography through electronic methods should be treated…

 

 


 

 


 



HB 67 (Wise) Parents of Minors Engaged in Prostitution

 

Survey Item: If a minor (person under the age of 18) is engaged in prostitution, should their parents/legal guardians be held criminally responsible?

 

 

 


 

 


 



HB 103 (Bonnen) $100 Fee for Alcohol Related Offenses

 

Survey Item: It has been suggested that when a person is convicted of an alcohol related offense (including DUI, Public Intoxication, Operating a Boat or Airplane while Intoxicated, Possession of an Open Container of Alcohol in a Car, etc.) the Court should assess a fee of $100 in addition to other punishments and that the funds acquired through this process should be used by law enforcement agencies to purchase equipment that will enhance their enforcement and prevention of alcohol related offenses. How do you feel about this suggestion?

 

 


 

 


 

 



HB 127 (Burnam) Death Penalty for Juveniles

 

Survey Item: Should people who are under the age of 18 when they commit a capital crime be eligible for the death penalty?

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


HB 127 (Burnam) Death Penalty for Juveniles (continued)

 

 

 


Survey Item: [If] Yes, what is the youngest aged offender you would consider using the death penalty for? (please specify: ____ years old).

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 



SB 163 (Ellis) Execution of the Mentally Retarded

 

Survey Item Introduction

 

During the last legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed a law prohibiting the execution of offenders who were mentally retarded when they committed capital murder. Governor Perry did not sign the Bill because he believes that the capital sentencing system currently in place protects mentally retarded criminals from being executed.

 

Under the current system a person can raise the issue of retardation as a mitigating factor after a conviction has been reached in a capital murder trial. Current law also defines mental retardation through following criteria: 1)the person must have an IQ below 70; 2) the onset of retardation must be recorded before the age of 18; and 3) the person must have serious or substantial limitations in two or more adaptive behaviors (exemplified through social behaviors such as speech, dress, ability to hold a job, etc.). Defense attorneys may ask the same jury that decided guilt or innocence to determine if a capital murderer is sufficiently competent to face the death penalty through the review of all three criteria. If not, the convicted murderer receives a capital life sentence (they must serve a minimum of 40 years in prison before becoming eligible for review by the Board of Pardons and Paroles).

 

Which of the following best represent your thoughts on the issue? PLEASE ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS EVEN IF YOU OPPOSE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN ALL CASES.

 

 

 


Survey Item: First, what criteria do you think should be considered when determining if an offender charged with capital murder is mentally retarded?

 

 


 

 

 


SB 163 (Ellis) Execution of the Mentally Retarded (continued)

 

Survey Item: Next, when and by whom do you think the question of mental retardation should be determined in capital cases?

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 



HB 25 (Hodge): Inmates’ Tobacco Use

 

Survey Item:

 

Please tell us how strongly you either favor or oppose [the following]:

 

 

 


Inmates should be allowed to use tobacco products during their term of incarceration.

 


 

 



HB 24 (Hodge) Restoration of Good-Time Credits

 

Survey Item:

 

Please tell us how strongly you either favor or oppose [the following]:

 

After a period of time, prison officials should be able to restore “good time” credits that have been taken away from inmates due to disciplinary actions.

 

 


 

 


 



HB 28 (Hodge) Programs and Services for State Jail Inmates

 

Survey Item: Some law violators are currently being sentenced to serve time in a “State Jail” where they can stay for up to two years. How strongly do you favor a law that requires these facilities to provide the following services to inmates who are confined in these facilities:

 

 

 


Literacy and education training

 


Drug/Alchohol treatment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


HB 28 (Hodge) Programs and Services for State Jail Inmates (continued)

 

 

 


Job skills development programs

 

 


 

 


Life skills development programs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


HB 28 (Hodge) Programs and Services for State Jail Inmates (continued)

 

Arts and crafts programs


 

 


Parent-training programs

 

 


 


HB 28 (Hodge) Programs and Services for State Jail Inmates (continued)

 

 

Support groups