FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2004
For the past three regular sessions, I have filed legislation that would give Texas juries a life without parole sentencing option in capital punishment cases. Last year, the bill failed to pass the Senate by only one vote. Governor Perry's recent statement citing the lack of a life without parole sentencing option in his decision not to commute Kelsey Patterson's death sentence is an enormously compelling reason to add this issue to the next special session.
A life without parole sentence will guarantee that our most dangerous criminals will remain behind bars permanently. I support the death penalty; however, I also believe that Texas juries should have more sentencing options. In fact, poll results indicate that 72 percent of Texans favor changing the law to add life in prison without parole.
There are some opponents who argue that by creating this new sentence, our prison system will be dealing with a new type of prisoner that will be more violent and have less of an incentive to behave. However, research and experience prove the contrary. Research conducted in the Missouri Department of Corrections, for instance, found that life without parole inmates were not more violent than life with parole inmates when their behavior was studied over a 15-year period of confinement. Moreover, I have been informed by several present and former prison administrators throughout the nation that those offenders serving life without parole sentences presented no extraordinary disciplinary or management problems as compared to other offenders.
I intend to file this legislation again and will be asking Governor Perry to add this issue to the next special session. Governor Perry is correct--we do not have a life without parole sentencing option in our state. Now is the time to address this matter, and I look forward to the Governor's support on this issue.
I will be seeking input from parties on all sides of this matter so that we can move forward and ensure that future juries have the option to sentence violent criminals to life in prison without any possibility of parole. The addition of this sentence is not only about giving our juries more options. It is ultimately a "tough on crime" measure that will allow Texans to permanently remove dangerous criminals from our streets and keep our neighborhoods safe.