Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Austin's Channel 8 cable news network owned by Time Warner is running a terribly slanted "news" story on HB 2193, Texas' legislation strengthening the probation system. Their particularly nasty spin: It hurts nonprofits' "volunteer" base because reducing the length of probation will cut down on the number of probationers required to perform community service labor.

"Volunteers"? We're talking about people ordered to do labor by the court! Does reporter Allie Rasmus even know the meaning of the word "volunteer"?

And what's with Goodwill pimping for what amounts to essentially slave labor? Most folks view them as a group devoted to helping the downtrodden; the comments in this story make them sound more interested in exploiting them.
If a judge orders a probationer to perform community service as part of dispensing justice, that's one thing. But that's for the judge to decide, not Goodwill.

Here's a quick note I fired off in response to Channel 8's news director via the viewer comments:
To the news director, or any responsible adult in charge,

Your piece claiming HB 2193 strengthening Texas' probation system hurts nonprofits was a smear job. By a longshot, most "law enforcement groups" did not oppose the bill at the Legislature (check the witness lists!) and all nonprofits that testified supported it!! You guys let your sources use you on this -- what you reported has very little to do with current reality regarding "supervision" of probationers, and ignores all parts of the bill that make supervision stronger. You also didn't say judges could still extend probation up to the full ten years. By contrast, right now hardly anyone's being supervised at all, mostly because 1 in 20 Texans are under authority of the criminal justice system, which means no system can adequately monitor everybody.

Bad show.

UPDATE: While I was out of town, Goodwill retracted their position from the story! Good for them, I thought those comments sounded out of context. Here's an excerpt from their press release, issued jointly with the Austin-Travis County Reentry Roundtable:

A news story Wednesday by Channel 8 Cable News in Austin falsely inferred that HB 2193 would hinder Goodwill Industries’ ability to fulfill its mission, Goodwill officials and representatives of the Austin/Travis County Rentry Roundtable said today.

If probationers have to do community service, said Katie Navine of Goodwill Industries, it’s a “win-win situation for them to do it here. But that’s certainly not our purpose. If that’s not the best thing for them, then we don’t want to do that. The heart of our mission is to support the placement of ex-offenders in permanent work in our job placement programs, and HB 2193 will not affect that work.”

Goodwill Industries Malcolm Gardner, who was quoted in the Channel 8 news article, said he didn’t realize his comments would be paired with those of prominent bill opponents. “I wasn’t trying to make a political statement about the bill. Actually, we only let people perform community service here whose cases were misdemeanors and DWI's whose status can be at the felon level,” he said. “The changes made in this bill won’t affect our job/support programs much at all.”

Channel 8 did NOT retract the story before the Governor vetoed the bill in question.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

Perry Vetoed alot of good bills :(