Justice and Safety

The Texas justice and safety systems should aim to keep every person safe, especially society’s most vulnerable.

Over the past few decades, Texas has enjoyed tremendous economic growth and prosperity — but interrelated factors, including unsafe neighborhoods, financial hardship, and traumatic experiences, hold many people back. State leaders should collaborate across justice and safety-net systems to ensure all partners — state agencies, local governments, and private sector entities — spend tax dollars effectively.

Public safety is necessary for Texas institutions and civil society to function. After decades of positive momentum, violent crime has started to increase in some Texas communities. Both violent and property crimes have declined statewide since the 1990s, but Texas still ranks near the bottom among our peer states. The 2020 violent crime rate of 446.5 and property crime rate of 2,245, both per 100,000 persons, place Texas 12th and 10th, respectively.

Increases in court backlogs can delay access to the justice system. Clearance rates under 100% indicate a growing backlog, while rates at or above 100% indicate a declining one. In 2020, Texas had a 91% criminal and an 81% civil clearance rate, ranking fifth and seventh, respectively, of nine reporting peer states.

Too many Texas children are vulnerable to experiences that can negatively impact their future. Texas ranks ninth among peer states in the percentage of children, 19.1%, who have experienced at least two adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, such as violence, abuse, neglect or a household with substance use or mental health problems. These children face negative consequences for their health, educational attainment, employment and earnings.

The inability to cover basic expenses when income is lost can lead to short-term hardships and long-term impacts on health and well-being. In 2016, more than 42% of Texas households were unable to pay basic expenses for three months without income, ranking Texas 10th among Peer States.

Justice and Safety Staff

Policy & Data

Texas Law Enforcement Data Landscape

Benchmark Analytics partnered on this report on the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) and their effectiveness at regulating law enforcement. Current processes of hiring and firing peace officers are also examined including analyses to estimate if officers with misconduct move between law enforcement agencies. (November 2022)

Modernizing Texas’ Child Welfare IT System 

Jointly published by Texas 2036 and the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, the report dives in on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ outdated IMPACT data system that further impedes caseworkers’ ability to review important electronic case file information. (January 2023)

Key Insights