Regulars at the Texas Lege know that ghost voting is rampant, and that members improperly vote for one another all the time. But I just watched the opening of the House this morning and with the chamber virtually empty, a handful of members went from desk to desk pushing buttons until the entire board appeared lit up green, implying all the members were present for roll call. They weren't. I'm not a stickler for such things, and all they missed was the prayer and congratulatory resolutions, but it's still annoying to watch one guy logging in for a dozen different members.
TDCJ Staff: Get Livingston Out
The Back Gate lets us know TDCJ staff have begun a petition drive demanding the ouster of agency chief Brad Livingston. Here's the petition.
New private prison opens in East Texas
A private prison designed as an "Intermediate Sanctions Facility" just opened in Rusk County. Chairman Whitmire has called this a "spec prison," built without a specific client, but from all appearances it will be used as part of the proposed expansion of treatment and incarceration alternatives he and Jerry Madden put together. See prior Grits coverage. In addition, here's a report from a meeting of 75 prison ministry volunteers at a church in Henderson near the new facility.
Dallas Sheriff: 'Jail Flaws Not My Fault'
Unhappy with the coverage she's received in the Dallas Morning News, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez gave a lengthy interview with the Dallas Voice to explain her side of why problems at the Dallas County Jail haven't been fixed. “I am tired of being blamed for things that are not under my control,” she declared. The Sheriff has no control, she said, over the quality of healthcare delivered to inmates or budgets to overcome staffing shortages.
All the Gold in California
Driven by lawsuits and the prospect of mass releases, in a bipartisan vote, California just approved $7.4 billion, with a "B," in new prison spending. More from Doc Berman here, here, here, here, and here.
Choose: Jail immigrants or crooks
There aren't enough federal courts or jail space to comprehensively enforce immigration laws, concludes AP. Officials are "alarmed because where would we put our bank robbers? Our rapists? Those who violate probation?"
Brother, can you spare a job?
The SA Express News' Roddy Stinson focuses on allegations of nepotism at the Bexar County probation department.
Anderson Cooper Screwed Up the 'Snitch' Story
So says David Borden at Drug War Chronicle in an open letter to the 60 Minutes reporter. See Grits discussion of the show here and here.
New Dallas ADA Shaking Up Office
With national publicity focused on the office as a result of recent exonerations based on DNA evidence, Texas Lawyer profiles Terri Moore, the new first assistand district attorney at the Dallas County DA's office. Reports Texas Lawyer:
Moore has already put her stamp on the DA's office, embarking on an ambitious plan to institute fundamental changes to the way it does business. Since she became first assistant DA on Jan. 29, Moore has:
- Invited the Innocence Project of Texas, a consortium of research teams at various universities devoted to seeking freedom for the wrongfully convicted, to review cases in which the DA's office previously had fought defense requests for review of DNA evidence;
- Launched new policies for first-time offenders accused of marijuana possession and shoplifting to help them turn their lives around;
- Proposed reducing dramatically -- to almost zero -- the number of examining trials held before magistrates in Dallas courts, at which defense lawyers get the opportunity to review prosecutors' evidence before clients are indicted;
- Initiated plans to start an open-file policy, automatically giving defense lawyers access to the same evidence that prosecutors see, including police files, all witness statements and all discovery;
- Altered the tone of relations between prosecutors and defense lawyers, telling her staff to treat the other side with respect and decorum and not like the enemy.