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More Americans face arrest over petty crimes

In Texas and across the country, a conversation has developed about excessive prosecution and incarceration. As a result, there is wide support for criminal justice reform, including proposals to decriminalize or legalize cannabis and end criminal prosecution and incarceration for related offenses. This conversation comes as statistics show that the violent crime rate has gone down for decades, and people are safer than potentially ever before. However, arrest rates continue to rise. Dealing with high arrest rates can be a significant concern because people may find their employment, education and housing prospects hindered by criminal arrests, charges and convictions.

Many felonies are nonviolent and some are bizzare

Texas residents likely think of serious crimes like murder and arson when felonies are mentioned, and they may be surprised to learn that dozens of acts that would barely raise an eyebrow also fall under this designation. Calling in sick to spend a day in front of the television is actually a felony in some situations, and making a scene in a post office is always a federal crime. This is important because the consequences of a felony conviction often continue for years after an offender is released from prison or jail.

Wrongful convictions continue to pose barrier to justice

For many people in Texas, a wrongful conviction is one of their worst nightmares. With the advent of computer surveillance technology and DNA testing, many might hope that wrongful convictions are less likely than they were in the past. However, many cases, especially for more minor crimes like shoplifting, theft or drug possession, continue to rely on standard types of evidence that are particularly prone to mistake or error. According to one criminologist who studied the prison population, up to 6% of prisoners could be wrongfully jailed for crimes they did not commit.

Data can be accessed with only a subpoena

Texas residents who use apps such as Ring or Lyft may not have full control of their data. Only three states require that police get a warrant before accessing information about an individual from those or other popular apps. Companies such as Ring readily hand over information to police officers who ask to use it as part of an investigation if individuals won't do so willingly themselves.

State laws can cause problems for poor people

Jurisdictions in Texas and throughout the country have tried to raise money through fines and fees. This allows them to generate revenue without having to increase taxes. However, if a person cannot pay a fine, he or she may spend time in jail or on probation until the issue is resolved. That could make it harder for a person to get a drivers license, find work or obtain adequate housing.

Lack of rules could lead to abuse of facial ID technology

Most shoppers in Texas are accustomed to the use of surveillance cameras in stores. However, some businesses are going a step further and creating digital records based on collected facial recognition data. Many stores are using this technology for security purposes to deter shoplifting and share accumulated data. This means someone perceived to be a security threat at one location could be barred from shopping at other businesses in that same data network.

Judges need more leeway when sentencing violent offenders

Texas, like the rest of the country, has a mass incarceration problem. In 2008, when the issue was at its peak, there were 1,000 inmates per every 100,000 adults in the U.S. In an effort to drive that number down, many jurisdictions began offering more incarceration alternatives for low-level offenders. As a result, the U.S. incarceration rate fell to 830 inmates per 100,000 adults.

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