Confidence in the Death Penalty System in Texas and Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium:

Special Legislative Report

(2000 Texas Crime Poll)

 

 

 

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: ICC_DRL@SHSU.EDU

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended citation:

 

Longmire, Dennis R. and Scott Vollum (2001). Confidence in the Death Penalty System in Texas and Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium: Special Legislative Report (2000 Texas Crime Poll). Huntsville, Texas: College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University. http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/Confidence_in_Death_Penal.htm


Introduction

 

This Special Legislative Report was prepared for presentation before the Texas House of Representativesı State Affairs Committee as a resource document related to House Bill 720 on March 19, 2001. It draws from data included in the 2000 Texas Crime Poll, the 33rd statewide public opinion survey completed under the auspices of Sam Houston State Universityıs 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 2000 survey and all activities conducted under the auspices of the Criminal Justice Centerıs 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 is available for review at the Centerıs 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 citizensı opinions and attitudes concerning crime and criminal justice related topics.

 

The 2000 Texas Crime Poll included a series of questions designed to ascertain how Texans' attitudes about crime and justice have changed since 1994. The data included in the 1994 Texas Crime Poll reflect Texans' attitudes about the criminal justice system in the final year of Governor Ann Richards. The data collected in 2000 reflect Texansı attitudes in the final year of Governor Bush and offer some interesting comparisons that are beyond the scope of this Special Legislative Report. The results of this comparison are available at http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/TexasCrimePoll2000.html and a copy of the ³Executive Summary² highlighting the major findings is attached as an Addendum to this Special Legislative Report.

 

The data for this report draw from questions focusing on items about the death penalty system that were not included in the 1994 survey but are particularly salient for todayıs Texans. A general discussion of the surveyıs methodology and a description of the respondents to the 2000 survey is followed by an examination of how much confidence Texans have that the death penalty is being administered fairly and with adequate measures of certainty that innocent people are not being subject to this sanction. Whether or not there is general support for a moratorium on executions in the state is also examined.

 

SECTION 1: The 2000 Survey and Characteristics of the Sample

 

The 2000 Texas Crime Poll involved a statewide telephone survey designed and commissioned by the Criminal Justice Centerıs Survey Research Program at Sam Houston State University. In that survey, conducted by Texas A&M Universityıs Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI) on behalf of Sam Houston State University between October 3rd and October 22nd of 2000, a total of 403 Texans were queried about their attitudes toward a wide variety of crime and criminal justice issues.

 

The questionnaire used can be viewed at the Centerıs web-site located at http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/TexasCrimePoll2000.Survey.html and a Technical Report showing the response rates and other pertinent information is available at http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/TexasCrimePoll2000.Technical.html.

 

The data presented in Table 1 show the age, ethnicity/race, and gender of the participants in the 2000 survey. The size of this yearıs sample, while somewhat small, allows general frequencies reported to fall within a margin of error or (+/-) 4.5%. The sample was also selected to insure that it reflects the most current census estimates of Texans along the dimensions of gender and race/ethnicity, however, due to the small number of respondents within each of the different demographic groups, caution is urged in drawing conclusions about the attitudes and opinions of these different groups.

 

Table 1 Age, race, and gender of respondents

 

                                                            % of Total (N = 403)

 

Age

 

18 - 29

23 (92)

30 - 44

30 (117)

45 - 61

31 (123)

Over 61

16 (61)

 

 

 

Ethnicity

 

White

71 (280)

Black/or African American

8 (33)

Hispanic

16 (62)

Other

 

7 (20)

 

Gender

 

Male

49 (201)

Female

 

51 (202)

 

 

SECTION 2: Public Confidence in the Death Penalty System: General Overview

 

Recent national attention has focused on several questions about the certitude and fairness of the system used to sentence people to death. In January of 2000, questions about the possibility of executing someone who is actually innocent of the alleged offense led the Governor of Illinois to impose a temporary moratorium on executions until that stateıs death penalty system can be reviewed. The Nebraska legislature had already imposed such a moratorium on executions in that state in 1999 and in 2000 New Hampshireıs legislature also passes moratorium bills. In both of these instances, the governor vetoed the bills.

 

A number of jurisdictions throughout the U.S. have passed legislation to insure that DNA testing is available to protect against the execution of innocent people, however, these measures will not provide protection in cases where DNA evidence has not been relied upon during adjudication. This leaves open the possibility of executing innocent defendants erroneously convicted in such cases. It is just such a possibility that contributed to the decision by several European nations to impose a prohibition against the death penalty and lead the European Union to require member nations to prohibit the use of capital punishment in order to maintain eligibility for membership.

 

In addition to questions of certitude, longstanding questions about the fairness of the death penalty have once again drawn public attention. Concerns about whether or not capital defendants receive a fair and impartial trial with access to competent legal counsel and whether or not the death penalty is applied disproportionately against racial/ethnic minorities or the economically underprivileged served as the impetus for the U.S. Supreme Courtıs imposition of a national moratorium on the death penalty in the well known case of Furman v. Georgia in 1972.

 

Texas, along with several other states, revised its capital punishment laws to the Courtıs satisfaction in 1976 and at the close of the calendar year in 2000 there had been 239 people executed under the new law. According the figures presented at the Texas Department of Criminal Justiceıs web-page (http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/racial.htm), as of March 8, 2001, another 440 men and 7 women were on Texası death row awaiting execution. Texasıs political leaders have consistently proclaimed that the ³modern death penalty system² is fair and impartial and that there is a high probability of certainty that innocent people have not been executed.

 

A recent report entitled A State of Denial: Texas Justice and the Death Penalty completed by the Texas Defender Service (2000) raises serious questions about these proclamations. This report represents the first systematic effort to ascertain whether or not the citizens of Texas share this high level of confidence in the death penalty system.

 

The 2000 Texas Crime Poll included several questions designed to ascertain how confident Texans are that innocent people have not been executed and that the system operates fairly and equally for all. Responses to these questions provide the foundation for the Part I of this report. Texans were also asked whether or not they would support a moratorium on the carrying out of capital sentences pending the completion of studies to determine the certitude and fairness of the system. Responses to these items constitute the Part II of this report.

 

Part I: Support for and Confidence in Texasıs Death Penalty System

 

Support for the Death Penalty. The results reported in the 2000 Texas Crime Poll, concerning Texansı support for the death penalty are reproduced in Table 2. These figures show that, in response to the simple question, ³Do you favor the use of the death penalty in the case of murder?² 72% of todayıs Texans said ³yes² compared with 81% in 1994. When asked whether or not they would continue to support the death penalty if there were a ³true life sentence without the possibility of parole,² these numbers dropped to 60% in 2000 and 66% in 1994.

 

Table 2 Percent of Texans Supporting the Death Penalty: 1994 vs. 2000

 

Year of Survey

% Supporting the Death Penalty

% Maintaining Support if a ³true life sentence² were available

1994

81

66

2000

72

60

 

These figures show that a majority of Texans continue to favor the use of capital punishment, however, in the 2000 survey, immediately after asking about their general support for the sanction, respondents were asked ³How much confidence do you have that death penalty system in Texas protects innocent people from being executed? Would you say a lot of confidence, some confidence, little confidence or no confidence?² Similar questions followed with the focus shifting from innocence to whether or not:

 

1)    the death penalty in Texas is being imposed fairly on poor people;

 

2)    the death penalty is imposed fairly on members of minority groups;

 

3)    people charged with capital murder in Texas receive competent legal representation during their trial; and

 

4)    people convicted of capital crimes in Texas have acceptable levels of access to the appeal process.

 

Confidence in the Death Penalty System. The percent of respondents reporting each level of confidence for each of these five aspects of the death penalty system are reported in Figure 1. The aspects of the death penalty system are listed in decreasing order of general confidence.

 

 

Fifty percent of the respondents have ³a lot² of confidence that people in Texas who have been convicted of capital crimes have acceptable levels of access to the appeal process with another 32% expressing ³some² confidence in this area. Only 13% reported ³little² confidence in the accessibility of the capital appeal process and 5% reported ³no² such confidence.

 

Texans show a similarly high level of general confidence that Texans charged with capital crimes have access to competent legal representation with only 22% reporting ³little² (16%) or ³no² (6%) such confidence in this aspect of the death penalty system. Almost 80% of the respondents reported either ³a lot² (30%) or ³some² (48%) confidence that capital defendants receive competent legal representation during their adjudication.

 

Only three-quarters of the respondents, however, felt that innocent people in Texas are protected against wrongful convictions with 38% expressing ³a lot² of confidence and 36% expressing ³some² confidence. The remaining 26% had ³little² (17%) or ³no² (9%) confidence that innocent people were protected against wrongful convictions. More specific examination of the issue of certitude, addressed through a series of additional questions included in the survey, is discussed below.

 

Texans have the lowest levels of confidence that the State is able to apply the death penalty fairly in the treatment of minority group members and the poor. Only 35% of the respondents expressed ³a lot² of confidence that the death penalty treats minority group members fairly and only 30% had ³some² confidence in this regard. Twenty-three percent of all respondents said that they have ³little² confidence in the fairness of the death penalty systemıs treatment of minorities and 12% had ³no² such confidence. Over a third of the respondents had ³little² (21%) or ³no² (14%) confidence that Texasıs death penalty system treats the poor fairly.

 

Certitude in the Application of the Death Penalty. Perhaps the most critical issue facing those charged with administering any punishment system is to insure that sanctions are only applied against those who are truly guilty of the offense for which they are being punished. This issue is particularly salient in the case of the death penalty since, once executed, a person cannot be saved from the consequences of a wrongful conviction. While the numbers reported in Figure 1 show that Texans are relatively confident that the stateıs death penalty system protects against such events, it is worth recalling that 26% of the respondents had ³little² or ³no² confidence in the systemıs ability to assure certitude in the administration of capital punishment.

 

In an effort to better understand what the general public thinks about the issue of certitude in the administration of the death penalty, two subsequent questions were asked of all of the respondents to the 2000 Texas Crime Poll. They were first asked ³How often do you think innocent people have been executed in Texas? Would you say never, rarely, occasionally or frequently?² All respondents except those who responded ³never² were then asked ³How many of the last 100 people executed in Texas do you think were innocent?² and their exact response was recorded. The distribution the responses to these questions is presented in Table 3.

 

Table 3 Texansı Perceptions of How Frequently Innocent People Are Executed

 

 

Response

 

% of Respondents

Average number of last 100 who were innocent (standard deviation)

Never

9

n/a

Rarely

53

2.74 (6.74)

Occasionally

28

8.39 (9.33)

Frequently

9

22.75 (23.18)

 

It is apparent from the figures in Table 3 that the majority of Texans believe the execution of innocent people occurs somewhat frequently. Only nine percent of the respondents believed that Texas has ³never² executed an innocent person. Fifty-three percent consider the likelihood to be ³rare.² The remaining 37% of the respondents, however, consider it to be a more common occurrence with 28% saying it ³occasionally² happens and 9% believing it to be a frequent occurrence.

 

When asked to reflect on the question with a more current frame of reference, respondents who believed there to be some possibility that an innocent person may have been executed in the past reported that anywhere from zero to 89% of the last 100 executions involved innocent people. The range of these estimates is indeed extreme making it misleading to try to characterize the arithmetic ³mean² of the sample at large.

 

The ³means² for each group of respondents reported in Table 3, however, show that those respondents who think such an error is ³rare² believed that, on average, 2.74% of the past 100 people executed in Texas were innocent. Those characterizing such errors as ³occasional² believed that, on average, the execution of innocent people occurred 8.93% of the time and those characterizing such events as ³frequent² reported an average error rate of 22.75%. Although not reported in this Table, the ³median² estimate, or the point where 50% of the respondents fall above and 50% fall below, was 2 and the ³mode² or the most frequent estimate offered, was that none of the most recent executions involved innocent people.

 

General Level of Confidence in Texası Death Penalty System. In an effort to ascertain the general level of confidence Texans have in the death penalty system, an ³Index of Confidence in the Death Penalty² was constructed using responses to the five different items included in the above analysis. Responses to each item were coded so that those who had ³a great deal of confidence² on a particular item received a score of ³4.² Those who had ³some confidence² received a score of ³3.² Those reporting ³little confidence² received a score of ³2² and those reporting ³no confidence² received a score of ³1.² For each case, the sum of the scores on each of the five items was calculated and divided by a count of valid (non-missing) responses. For example, if a respondent indicated ³no confidence² (confidence score of ³1²) on three of the items, ³some confidence² (confidence score of ³2²) on one item and refused to answer or left blank the other, the score would be calculated as:

 

Index of Confidence in the Death Penalty Score = (1+1+1+2) / 4 = 1.25

 

These index values can range from ³1² to ³4² with higher values indicating high levels of confidence in the death penalty system and lower values indicating low levels of overall confidence. The example given above would indicate that the respondent had a low level of confidence in the death penalty system in Texas. This index value can be treated as an interval level variable so that differences across groups of respondents can be examined. The sampleıs overall ³Index of Confidence in the Death Penalty² is reported in Table 4 along with the ³mean² scores expressed by five different demographic groups who are frequently identified in research as having statistically significant differences in their levels of support for the death penalty.

 

The figures reported in Table 4 show an average ³Index of Confidence in the Death Penalty² of 2.997. Members of racial and ethnic minority groups report significantly lower levels of confidence in the system with Black/African Americans scoring only 2.253 and Hispanics scoring 2.767 compared to an index score of 3.152 for White respondents. There are also statistically significant differences in the index of confidence for people from different economic groups. The higher a personıs income, the higher their ³Index of Confidence in the Death Penalty.² Those respondents reporting annual incomes of more than $60,000 had an average index score of 3.132 compared with scores of 2.802 for those earning less than $15,000 per year.

 

While the confidence index score of 3.072 for men was slightly higher than for women (2.992) this difference was not statistically significant. Similarly, the differences in confidence expressed by members of the different educational groups were not statistically significant.

 

Table 4 Overall Index of Confidence in Texası Death Penalty System

and Differences in Levels of Confidence Expressed by Members of Different Demographic Groups

 

 

 

Mean Index of Confidence in the Death Penalty

 

 

Standard

Deviation

 

 

F value

(significance level)

Total Sample

2.997

.790

n/a

 

Race/Etnicity

White

Black/African American*

Hispanic*

 

 

 

3.152

2.253

2.767

 

 

.762

.634

.661

 

 

 

17.163

(sig. < .001)

 

Gender

Male

Female

 

 

 

3.073

2.922

 

 

.780

.795

 

 

3.648

(sig. = .057)

 

Education

Less than High School

High School or GED

College

Advanced Degree

 

 

 

2.892

2.953

3.052

2.871

 

 

.882

.734

.775

.933

 

 

 

.992

(sig. = .396)

 

Annual Income

Less than $15,000

$15,000 - $30,000

$30,000 - $60,000

More than $60,000

 

 

 

2.802

2.856

2.966

3.132

 

 

 

.730

.746

.761

.793

 

 

 

2.826

(sig. < .05)

*Significantly different from Whites at the .001 level of significance

 


It is apparent from these figures that a large number of Texans have concerns about the fairness of the death penalty system and that those people who are most likely to be subject to capital sanctions, the poor and minority group members, are the ones with the greatest concerns. It is also important to remember that a sizeable proportion of the sample believed that Texas has executed innocent people in the past. The next task is to examine whether or not there is sufficient concern about the stateıs death penalty system to warrant a moratorium on carrying out capital sanctions, for any of the reasons discussed in this section.

 

PART 2: Support for a Moratorium on Executions in Texas

 

In addition to the questions about confidence in the death penalty system, the 2000 Texas Crime Poll included a series of items designed to determine whether or not Texans would support a moratorium on executions until the system used to administer this punishment has been examined to insure that it is operating fairly and with acceptable levels of certitude. The questions used in this effort were asked immediately following the initial question about ³confidence² in each area of the death penalty system.

 

For example, immediately after ascertaining how much confidence respondents had that innocent people were protected from the death penalty, they were asked ³Do you think there should be a Œmoratoriumı on Texas's executions (a period of time during which there are no people executed in Texas) until the system can be studied to make sure innocent people are not being executed? Similar questions were asked following each of the five ³confidence questions.² Respondents were asked to simply respond ³yes² or ³no² to each of these questions.

 

It is noteworthy that, with the exception of ³access to legal appeals,² a majority of Texans reported that they would support a moratorium on executions pending the outcome of studies to examine each of the different dimensions of the death penalty system. Given the publicıs relative confidence that people sentenced to death have adequate access to the appeal process, the finding that even 48% of the respondents would support a moratorium to study this issue is noteworthy.

 

Fifty-four percent of the respondents to this survey reported that they would support a hiatus in the actual execution of people convicted of capital murder pending the results of studies looking into the questions of the fairness of the systemıs treatment of minority group members and the poor. Fifty-four percent of the respondents also reported that they would support a moratorium pending the outcome of studies to insure that the innocent are protected from being executed. Fifty-three percent of the respondents indicated support for a moratorium pending the outcome of studies looking into the adequacy of legal representation offered to capital defendants.

 

 

 

 

 

Index of Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium. In an effort to assess the general level of support Texans have for a moratorium on executions, an ³Index of Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium² was constructed using similar methods as those used to construct the ³Index of Confidence in the Death Penalty² discussed in Section 1. In developing the overall index, the responses were first coded so that ³yes² = 1 and ³no² = 0. Then the same process as previously described was implemented to construct a respondentıs overall ³Index of Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium.² For example, if a respondent indicated support (³yes²) for a moratorium on three items, no support (³no²) on one item, and left the other blank, the score would be calculated as:

 

Index of Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium Score = (1+1+1+0)/4 = .75

 

The index values range from ³0² to ³1² with higher values indicating high levels of support and lower values indicating low levels of support. The example given above indicates a respondent with a relatively high level of support for a moratorium.


 

Table 5 Overall Index of Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium

and Differences in Levels of Support Expressed by Members of Different Demographic Groups

 

 

 

Mean Index of Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium

 

 

Standard

Deviation

 

 

F value

(significance level)

Total Sample

.5324

.4500

n/a

 

Race/Ethnicity

White

Black/African American*

Hispanic*

 

 

 

.4306

.8879

.7720

 

 

 

.4391

.2643

.3809

 

 

 

 

20.648

(sig. < .001)

 

Gender

Male

Female

 

 

 

.4672

.5969

 

 

.4596

.4317

 

 

8.495

(sig. = .004)

 

Education

Less than High School

High School or GED

College

Advanced Degree

 

 

 

.7444

.5977

.4835

.4361

 

 

.3895

.4306

.4528

.4697

 

 

 

4.996

(sig = .002)

 

Annual Income

Less than $15,000**

$15,000 - $30,000**

$30,000 - $60,000***

More than $60,000

 

 

 

.7053

.6622

.5534

.3896

 

 

.4105

.4212

.4261

.4550

 

 

 

8.350

(sig. < .001)

* Significantly different from Whites at the ,001 level of significance.

** Significantly different from those earning more than $60,000 at the.001 level of significance.

*** Significantly different from those earning more than $60,000 at the .017 level of significance.

 

The figures reported in Table 5 show that the overall sample has a moderate level of support for a death penalty moratorium with an ³Index of Support for a Death Penalty Moratorium² of .5324. The closer this score comes to ³1.00² the greater the level of support. There are, however, statistically significant differences in the levels of support for a moratorium expressed by each of the different demographic groups. Women, Black/African Americans, and those with the lowest annual incomes expressed the highest levels of support for a moratorium on executions while Whites, males, and those respondents who had higher levels of education expressed the lowest level of support for a moratorium.

 

Summary and Discussion of Findings

 

The current data show that issues of certitude and fairness in the administration of capital sanctions resonate as the primary concerns Texans have about the administration of the death penalty. Their responses to the ³confidence² items suggest that they are fairly confident that the system is operating effectively and they seem to be quite willing to hold off on executions until these beliefs have been studied. Questions about exactly what they would recommend if these studies failed to confirm their confidence was not included in the 2000 Texas Crime Poll.

 

In the 1995 Texas Crime Poll, (Longmire and Sims) which is available at http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/TEXAS_CRIME_POLL_ON-LINE.html, a series of questions was included to examine the ³constancy² of peopleıs support for the death penalty in the face of several different issues including the issues of certitude and fairness. Respondents to that survey were first asked whether or not they supported the death penalty for the crime of murder and were then asked ³What if you were to learn that some people who have been executed were actually innocent? Respondents were asked to indicate whether such information would cause them to be ³more likely to favor² the death penalty, ³more likely to oppose² the death penalty, or whether it ³wouldnıt matter² to them. Similar questions were asked about how their positions would be effected if they were to learn that ³members of minority groups are more likely than others to receive the death penalty for the same crime,² and that ³poor people are more likely than others to receive the death penalty for the same crimes.²

 

Table 6 shows the percent of respondents who initially supported the death penalty and how this support would change if they were to learn that innocent people had been executed or that the system did not treat minority group members or the poor fairly. While these figures were not gathered from the same group of Texans included in the 2000 Texas Crime Poll, they may offer some insight into how todayıs Texans would respond to such results.


 

Table 6 Effect of Different Factors on Texansı Support for the Death Penalty: 1995 Texas Crime Poll

 

 

% of Total (N = 578)

 

Initially support the death penalty for the crime of murder?

 

 

78

(449)

 

Would continue support even if innocent people had been executed.

 

 

37

(211)

 

Would continue support even if minority group members were treated differently.

 

 

47

(270)

 

Would continue support even if poor people were treated differently.

 

 

42

(243)

 

It seems reasonable to assume that the general level of support for the death penalty in Texas would wane considerably if the outcome of studies conducted during a moratorium period failed to sustain peopleıs general confidence in the certitude and fairness of the death penalty system. Accordingly, law makers and criminal justice policy makers would be encouraged to make whatever adjustments are necessary to respond to these issues.

 

Data analyzed in this report show that a sizeable majority of Texans support the death penalty for the crime of murder, it is equally apparent that they presume the system responsible for administering this sanction is operating with a fairly high degree of certitude and fairness.

 

Whether or not the system itself is actually fair and certain has not been systematically tested and a majority of todayıs Texans are open to the imposition of a moratorium in executions until these issues can be reviewed. If the system fails to meet these expectations, appropriate remediation should be taken to insure that the system is operating fairly and with a sufficiently high level of certitude.


Addendum

 

2000 Texas Crime Poll: Executive Summary

A copy of the complete Final Report can be viewed at http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/TexasCrimePoll2000.html

 

CITIZENS' CONCERNS ABOUT CRIME

 

Texans are overwhelmingly less concerned with the problems of crime and drugs than they were in 1994 but are considerably more concerned about education.

 

37% of the 1994 respondents mentioned crime as the most important problem facing them at the local level compared to only 14% in 2000.

 

In 2000, 8% of Texans mentioned crime as the most important problem facing them at the state level compared to 35% in 1994.

 

Declining family values and education are the most important problems facing today's Texans at the local and state levels.

 

CONFIDENCE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND ITS COMPONENTS

 

Texan's today are considerably more satisfied with each of the components of the criminal justice system today than they were in 1994.

 

The greatest increases in satisfaction occurred in Texans' satisfaction with their local law enforcement departments, the Department of Public Safety, and the state prison system.

 

The smallest increases in satisfaction occurred when people reflected on their county probation departments and the state parole system.

 

Texans are considerably more satisfied with the delivery of criminal justice services today than they were in 1994.

 

In both years, Black/African Americans reported considerably lower levels of satisfaction with the criminal justice system than did any other demographic sub-group.

 

SUPPORT FOR SOLUTIONS TO PRISON OVERCROWDING

 

In both 1994 and 2000, Texans are most strongly in favor of "solutions" to prison overcrowding that rely on increasing the availability of new prison space.

 

Today's Texans are considerably more likely to support the increased use of electronic monitoring as a solution to prison overcrowding (66% in 1994 vs. 76% in 2000).

 

Today's Texans are more likely to support the increased use of probation as a solution to prison overcrowding (7% in 1994 vs. 18% in 2000).

 

SUPPORT FOR THE DEATH PENALTY

 

Today's Texans are considerably less supportive of the death penalty than they were in 1994.

 

72% of the 2000 respondents support the death penalty compared to 81% supporting it in 1994.

 

The greatest reductions in support occurred among Blacks and "Other" ethnic groups, younger respondents, and respondents at both ends of the educational continuum.

 

The only category where there was increased support for the death penalty in 2000 compared to 1994 was in the case of treason.

 

In both 1994 and 2000, the overall level of support for the death penalty drops considerably with the introduction of a "true life sentence."

 

60% of today's Texans would continue to favor the death penalty if there were a "true life sentence available" compared with 66% of the 1994 sample.

 

Women and Black/African Americans are significantly less likely than others to continue to support the use of the death penalty if there were a "true life sentence" available.