Saturday, July 01, 2006

From around the blogosphere

Little blogging time for me over the holiday, but here are a few links I noticed at neighboring blogs that merit Grits readers' interest:
  • Juvie system a revolving door for guards, kids. Via Rep. Pena, The Texas Observer had an good article on the Evins juvenile detention facility in Edinburg. "Every year three out of four TYC guards leave the agency. Personnel turnover creates its own chaos as guards in understaffed facilities have to work overtime—sometimes back-to-back 12-hour shifts," reported Emily Pyle.
  • Jail is punishment, but it shouldn't kill you. Another Liberty Blog post by Porter reports health data from the Bexar County Jail acquired through an open records request.
  • Too much focus on death? Doc Berman makes the case why less emphasis should be placed by reformers on death penalty cases. Though I personally oppose the death penalty, I actually agree with most of this. Dan Filler thinks the emphasis is justified, but agrees the death penalty debate shouldn't "use up all the oxygen" in the reform debate.
  • Are wrongful convictions more likely for murder? Berman and Filler also had an interesting discussion regarding wrongful convictions where I chimed in with comments. Filler and several Supreme Court justices in Kansas v. Marsh believe wrongful convictions happen more often in capital cases, while Berman thinks they're a bigger problem in routine cases because of the plea bargain system. For my money, as I said in the comments to Filler's post, wrongful convictions are probably most common in drug cases because of the widespread use of informants, but I do think the pressure to convict in murder cases makes that a special situation, too.
  • The Need for Speed: Houston and Austin made the list for the nation's top ten speed traps, reports Kuff. Houston was 5th, Austin 7th. That may be true per volume, but there are some small East Texas towns with cops making their paychecks off their speedguns, I'm willing to bet. For example, Brownsboro is a bigger speed trap than either of the bigger cities, IMO. State highway 79 is littered with them.


Anonymous said...

Berman is given too much leeway - his sophistic musings on why - in effect - it is ok to look the other way on problems with the death penalty should be an alarm bell for those in the academic community who are all to prone to defer to peer popularity. Berman is a fad.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I've gotta admit, I'm more or less in favor of giving bloggers "leeway."

I oppose the death penalty for several reasons, but it's not my primary focus. There's room in the criminal justice reform movement for a lot of different kinds of work, and the non-capital issues Berman references affect a LOT of people. I don't think it hurts anything to say people should focus there, too. Nor is it inaccurate to point out that for all its recent death penalty focus, only two recent USSC cases on the death penalty made big new precedent - on juveniles and the mentally retarded. Otherwise, the Supreme Court keeps making narrow, small-time decisions that don't move the debate forward much. Given the bulging federal prison system and the Blakely/Booker mess (Berman's specialty), I don't think his suggestion for a broader focus is unwarranted,though it's certainly debatable.

By contrast, I know quite a few death penalty abolitionists who don't really care about any other criminal justice subject at all. I don't think that's right, either.