The fourth largest expenditure area in the Texas budget is public safety and corrections. Approximately 5.4 percent (or $3.28 billion) of total net state spending was directed to this area in 2004. This represented a slight decrease from previous years, after rapid growth over the course of the 1990s, during which increasing concern with crime and security among voters, combined with stricter sentencing and rapid overall population growth, swelled the number of people in the state prison system.
Incarceration rates shot up over the decade of the 1990s, from 257 per 100,000 Texas residents in 1989 to over 700 for each year from 1989-2001. The total number of those incarcerated is even more stunning when we consider that the overall population of the state grew considerably over the decade.
Consequently, the budget for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ, which includes the Texas Department of Corrections) grew at double-digit rates for every year but one from 1991 through 1996, and at rates higher than the rate of inflation for the remainder of the decade (see table).
The dramatic expansion of funding for the state prison system in Texas over the course of the 1990s demonstrates additional aspects of the politics of fiscal policy in any jurisdiction, whether it be a state, county, municipality, of even the federal government. More extensive discussion of public safety and corrections can be found in the Texas Politics chapter that focuses on the Criminal Justice System.