News accounts focused on tearful testimony from officers' widows, but doesn't everyone whose family member is killed by a drunk driver grieve equally? Wouldn't any widow have reacted the same way? How does that justify increasing the penalty for intoxication manslaughter to a first degree felony? Is the drunk driver really any more culpable because of the dead person's occupation?
Rep. Terri Hodge rightly pointed out the hypocrisy of enacting such long sentences when the state has de-funded drug and alcohol treatment programs. Reported the Star-Telegram:
"If our Texas toughness was the answer to this, how and why is our prison population increasing so much?" she said, calling for greater emphasis on treatment programs. "We must quit taking the easy way out by locking people up for longer periods of time."Hogwash! This won't prevent one, single person from "drinking too much and getting behind the wheel." It's ridiculous to even say so! It's hard to believe a law enforcement professional could do so with a straight face.
Pierson countered that the measure might make someone think twice before drinking and driving. [Fort Worth police chief Ralph] Mendoza agreed.
"It's not like we are going to fill the prisons up," he said. "But this can prevent someone from making the decision of drinking too much and getting behind the wheel."
As a probation official said to the House Corrections Committee last week, the only thing you get when you lock up a drunk with no treatment is a thirsty drunk when they get out. There's no evidence at all that long prison sentences reduce drunk driving in aggregate, and plenty of evidence that treatment programs help when the Lege funds them. There have also been promising developments in technocorrections which can thwart repeat DUI offenders. If the Lege wants to reduce drunk driving, those are the areas it needs to address.
If you think a police officer's life is more important than every other citizen and want to exact maximum vengeance, which is all this bill accomplishes, fine ... say so. But to claim boosting sentences in these rare cases will reduce drunk driving is a politically motivated lie, plain and simple. It will do no such thing.
UPDATE: Jamie Spencer has more.