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This legislation would require that certain family violence offenders would have their penalties enhanced based on the number of times they had been convicted for related offenses. The bill would also require people convicted of certain felony family violence offenses pay back the full actual cost of their incarceration and that repeat offenders sentenced to mandatory community supervision who are also required to serve a portion of their confinement reimburse the cost of the first two years of their confinement.
HB 1897 further stipulates that if a court places a defendant on deferred adjudication community supervision for repeat offenses of family violence the defendant must actually serve the first two years of their confinement.
The bill adds provisions to exempt indigent offenders from the reimbursement requirements.
This legislation, while well-intentioned, crosses into the area of overcriminalization. If a person sentenced to multiple years in prison for family violence was not indigent when they arrived in prison or even when they were released, they almost certainly would be indigent soon afterward. It is nearly impossible for a person with that type of criminal record - we are talking about repeat family violence felons - to get a job of any kind after getting out of prison, much less getting a job that will allow them to repay the costs of their incarceration.
Our laws should be just and punishments proportional to the crime. Felony prison time, and the associated fines already permissible under the law, are substantial penalties. The social and economic consequences that follow a prison term for these types of offenses are severe and long lasting. Adding the reimbursement requirements would likely increase recidivism and, in the long run, cost the taxpayers more money than they would regain by requiring the defendant to make the reimbursements.
For these reasons it is our view that this bill abridges limited government and would potentially make our justice system less effective. For these reasons we oppose HB 1897.