Busy day for me, so light blogging, but check out these Grits posts about today's hot criminal justice topics:
- Penalty increases may require new prisons. The House will vote on budget busting increases in prison sentences today, while the Legislative Budget Board continues to mislead legislators about the costs. Civil rights groups are holding a press conference at 9:30 this morning to oppose these so-called "enhancements." See the Solutions handout opposing Rep. Truitt's HB 151 increasing penalties for burglary of a vehicle, and here for more background on penalty increases. Update: Bill passed, see coverage from the Houston Chronicle. The Brownsville Herald credits Rep. Aaron Peña with both supporting the penalty increase and opposing filling the prisons up: nice trick, that. His stratagem so far didn't pay off with any compromise, though. Nuther update: Rep. Peña has more on his own blog.
- Shift task force money to treatment. Legislation to abolish Texas' regional narcotics task forces will be heard today in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Civil rights groups want that money shifted to other priorities like drug treatment and fixing Texas' crime labs. Later this morning I'm headed up to go around the capitol with an 84-year old ex-legislator and defense lawyer from Jacksonville named Hulon Brown, who is coming into town to testify in favor of task force abolition. After nearly two decades, he's fed up with their local task force. See the Solutions handout in favor of the bill. Update: No coverage of the hearing, but the testimony was compelling and committee members seemed to view it favorably.
- Meth madness hits the Senate. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee today will hear legislation to increase penalties for meth use and production, even though treatment and drug courts are proven to work better. In Oklahoma, a much-ballyhooed meth crackdown just shifted addicts to cocaine. See the Solutions handout on meth. Update: Bill was left pending. See coverage here, here, and here.
- Second Amendment at traffic stops. Rep. Terry Keel's bill I supported yesterday allowing drivers to carry a handgun in their personal vehicle will be heard this afternoon in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Update: Bill was left pending, see here for more.