Jail oversight bills die - Urban reps take anti-accountability stand
The two bills by Rep. Turner discussed here aimed at providing greater oversight at Texas jails in large counties were defeated on an unusual third reading vote, mostly by Dallas and Houston representatives who apparently like their failed, dangerous jails just the way they are. See the Dallas News coverage of yesterday's surprising reversal. Rep. Jim Jackson who himself formerly chaired the Commission on Jail Standards, led the charge to kill the reforms, calling any effort to put teeth in agency regs an "unfunded mandate."
Why am I not surprised that the fellow on whose regulatory watch the Dallas Jail went to hell now thinks everything is hunky dory?
To me this was a politically foolish move - henceforth every jail death, every staph infection, every mentally ill person lost for months in the system without a court hearing can (and should) be blamed at election time on members who voted against these bills. Turner said it exactly right, "How can you complain about the problems at TYC when you're protecting your own local jails on the same stuff? That's hypocrisy at its best." I'll certainly be watching closely to see what horrors could have been prevented by a more conscientious vote.
What the Dallas Jail scandal will look like in a couple of years
You'd think Texas legislators would have learned by now, but here's what happens when you ignore problems at correctional institutions. Analyzing the results of more open records research, the Dallas News says that at the Texas Youth Commission:
A chain of administrative failures, executive inattention and bureaucratic missteps brought TYC to this institutional collapse. State government records, legislative archives and interviews with current and former officials show a breakdown of authority at all levels.
TYC officials consistently exaggerated agency accomplishments while downplaying its considerable problems. Legislators repeatedly failed to press the issue. And Gov. Rick Perry's office paid little heed to numerous and repeated warnings.
Crimes at TYC still concealed from administrators
Speaking of TYC, apparently it's not just reporters and the public being kept in the dark about misconduct allegations at the troubled agency, but even administrative staff, reports the Houston Chronicle. The paper reported that, "TYC Conservator Jay Kimbrough said that gap shouldn't matter because criminal investigators are now protecting the youth." Yeah, right - why should the administrators need to know?! Jesus H. Christ, how many times do we have to make the same mistakes over and over? Security through obscurity is SOOOOO last century - transparency at TYC is the best way to keep kids safe.
Read an interview with Pamela Myers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Dental Hygiene Coordinator. "After over 20 years, I am still behind the walls, barbed wire and fences, and it has been the most rewarding career I could have ever dreamed," Myers declared.
Dyslexia and Crime
I Speak of Dreams liked some of my writing on dyslexia and crime and linked to some additional resources.