Saturday, May 19, 2007

Homestretch Update on Good CrimJust Bills Moving at the Texas Lege

Just a few more days left until only conference committees remain at the Texas Legislature - for the most part it's time to lay low, count your votes, and hope. But I wanted to update readers on a few bills that have made it most or all the way through the process and have a great chance of becoming law here in the home stretch:

Red Light Camera Compromise: I haven't tracked the issue this session, but Sen. Carona's SB 1119 regulating red light cameras has gone to conference committee larded with House amendments, including one that would require a pro-active legislative vote for cities to continue using cameras after 2009. Kuff has more.

Drug Courts and Progressive Sanctions: Two important pieces of the Whitmire/Madden prison diversion plan - SB 166 by West and HB 530 by Madden - have been finally passed and sent to the Governor. SB 166 (discussed here) establishes a system of progressive sanctions for probationers and HB 530 (discussed here and here) expands the use of drug courts. In addition Rep. Turner's HB 312 (discussed here), which would reduce technical probation revocations based on the inability to pay fees, has been finally passed and sent to the Governor. A few more big chunks of the Legislature's probation package are yet to emerge from the process, but this is a good start.

Incentives for Prison Discipline: Congratulations to Rep. Terri Hodge on the final passage of her HB 44, which allows good time to be restored to inmates at the discretion of TDCJ after it's been taken away for a rule infraction. The bill strikes one word: "not." It's easy to take a punitive stance and say if a prisoner breaks a rule, they should lose their good time as a consequence (good time counts extra, or is supposed to, toward an inmate's release). But as a practical matter the ability to take away and restore good time is a powerful management tool for guards and wardens running the prisons, and taking away that tool has contributed to making prisons a more dangerous place filled with hopeless people.

Big TYC Changes Afoot: The conference committee completed its final report on SB 103 (discussed here) and came to a compromise on TYC governance: The agency will be run by a Czar for two years, presumably Ed Owens, then a board and Senate-confirmed executive director will be appointed after the agency receives its upcoming Sunset review. (Capitol Annex also wrote about the compromise. Meanwhile, HB 2884 by Dutton has been placed on the Senate uncontested calendar and appears near final passage, a reader pointed out to me. (Frankly the bill had kinda dropped off my radar screen - sorry about that!) It would require restructuring TYC facilities toward smaller units on a timetable that's a little unclear to me. (This provision was stripped out, see the comment string for more.) Those interested can read the actual bill text and also the House Research report for more details.

43 comments:

sunray's wench said...

The only problem with HB 44, is that good time isnt counted for everyone. As far as I know, it doesnt come of the time served, it comes off the parole instead. A bit of forward thinking, and this could have been used to further the ability of the BPP to free up prison beds (if they'd wanted to, which we all know, they dont).

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought up TYC's HB 2884, Scott. The part about restructuring to smaller facilities is unclear to me too. I work at Victory Field (the facility whose name keeps popping up for closure along with Marlin and John Shero.) It feels like impending doom to me, but I keep hearing people say that we have such a good program, we are going to stay put. If you hear any news about Victory Field, please let us know. After all, this is where we get the rest of our information about TYC. They aren't telling us anything.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Does anybody know the answer to Sunray's question? I'm afraid those mechanics aren't something I know a lot about.

And to the Victory Field staffer, I'll ask around and see what I can find out about a timetable. (If anybody knows anything, please spill it in the comments.) I'm a little embarrassed not to have paid more attention to this bill, but there's a LOT happening this session.

Jezz said...

No they don't-because they are all about getting our money. Money that is what it all boils down to for most of the cops, judges, and law-makers in this country today! People don't believe it until they are arrested and suddenly at "their" mercy.

sunray's wench said...

Scott, I think it has something to do with the date of the original sentencing, if it falls before 1996 or afterwards ~ sentences before that date have good time included, and sentences after that date dont: the inmates do flat time until their parole review date. As I said, I 'think' that's how it works and if it does then there is absolutely no incentive at all to anyone really.

All I know for sure is that right now, hubby's first parole review date wont come down no matter how good he is, he has to do 50% flat.

There were rumours (as always) that good time would be reinstated for everyone, and that it would also include time spent in education. I dont know how good time is worked out in TDCJ, but I assume it is something like 10 days for every 30 days with no new case (so that would be 120 days less to serve for each year without a new case: on a 10 year agg sentence, first chance at parole would be at 5 years, but could be at roughly 3 1/2 years if an offender stayed out of trouble the whole time. Doesnt mean they automatically get parole, just that they have a chance of it.)

It would be really useful if someone could explain exactly how it works with TDCJ, including aggravated sentences given after the date change I mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Question: Has the ACLU ever had any dealings with Williamson County and their overly harsh penalties? I got a friend of mine who got put on probation in that county and his probation officer told him outright it was her duty to see that he fails probation. Sure enough, he missed a meeting and she locked him up. It just seems to me that they are out to make a name for themselves.

whitsfoe said...

I think the ultimate goal is to get TYC facilities down to a 100 beds max per unit, and move them closer to the community, but it aint going happen overnight, and I really doubt it'll happen at every facility over the next two years.

If you look closely at the analysis, you'll see the opponents argue to let the management team and this new legislation have a chance, and if I'm not mistaken, Dutton agreed to that amendment. See, that bill speaks a great deal of juvenile probation. Yes it does mention us, but giving all our facilities that house over a hundred (all of them) to TDCJ and do it by September 2008 - it just aint going to happen folks. Relax!

whitsfoe said...

I think the ultimate goal is to get TYC facilities down to a 100 beds max per unit, and move them closer to the community, but it aint going happen overnight, and I really doubt it'll happen at every facility over the next two years.

If you look closely at the analysis, you'll see the opponents argue to let the management team and this new legislation have a chance, and if I'm not mistaken, Dutton agreed to that amendment. See, that bill speaks a great deal of juvenile probation. Yes it does mention us, but giving all our facilities that house over a hundred (all of them) to TDCJ and do it by September 2008 - it just aint going to happen folks. Relax!

Anonymous said...

You can read HB 2884 here

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Amendments.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB2884

I think the restructuring stuff was taken out on the house floor because of its fiscal impact. Of course, it's a long bill and I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant this link:

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Amendments.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB2884

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 4:11: I haven't worked for ACLUTX since last fall, but I'm not aware of any litigation along those lines. However, the Fair Defense Project and TCJC have been pursuing reforms, including pending litigation, over denial of the right to counsel, particularly in misdemeanor cases, which I wrote about here. Here's the original complaint in the lawsuit.

The other big recent Williamson County issue has been the detention of immigrant famlilies at the Hutto facility in Taylor, which the Texas Civil Rights Review has been covering admirably. ACLUTX has sued there.

Anonymous said...

Last try for the link

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/
BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=
80R&Bill=HB2884

you'll have to paste the link back together

Anonymous said...

I'm 99% sure that Grits meant to reference Dutton's HB 2512, which does in fact require restructuring of TYC as Whitsfoe describes.

HB 2884 is the biennial juvenile justice "clean up" bill that Dutton and West carry every year. It doesn't impact TYC facilities at all, as far as I can tell, and is generally a noncontroversial bill only practitioners pay attention to.

HB 2512 was left pending in committee as of 4/11/07 and I don't expect it to move.

Folks living in fear at Victory Field and other remote facilities: The decision to close facilities is less likely to be in a bill like Dutton's HB 2512 and more likely to be referenced somewhere sneaky, like a bill analysis, fiscal note, or in the agency's budget.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Are you sure, 7:00? In the HRO report (linked in the post), it said the bill required that "If a child lived in a county in which TYC did not operate a acility, the child could be confined only in the facility nearest to the county in which the child lived. By September 1, 2008, TYC would have to transfer to TDCJ any facility designed to house more than 100 children. TYC would have to comply with these requirements by September 1, 2008."

That's what made me think it was requiring the smaller facilities, though just b/c they transfer to TDCJ doesn't mean they're a) closed or b) no longer used for juvenile use. I'm afraid I didn't follow this bill closely and don't know entirely what it means, and I'd certainly be happy to be corrected if it's really innocuous. Thx

Anonymous said...

Thanks Grits, Anon 7:00 and whitsfoe for your comments about HB 2884. It is interesting to me that bring up looking in "sneaky places" for information 7:00 Anon, and here's an interesting tidbit for Grits:

Take a look at
HB 1756 by Madden. The caption in the bill states the following:

Relating to the grade of offense for which a person may be committed to the Texas Youth Commission and the termination of control of persons committed to the Texas Youth Commission.

On that same bill, the original fiscal note listed Marlin , John Shero and Victory Field for closure as a result of population reduction impacts. That was on March 7. Then on April 30, an updated fiscal note on the same bill drops all three facility names and replces it with "closure of facilities" in its place.

Another oddity relating to this bill is that the last action was postponed in the house on May 8th with a notation inserted for postponement on 6-1-07.

Scott, I am not a legislative genius, so can you tell me what that might possibly indicate? It sounds like a possible secial session, but I'm just guessing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits --

Anon at 7:00 here. I figured out what's behind the confusion! It took me a while and some close reading. If you read to the very end of the HRO analysis you'll see that Dutton agreed to remove the provision re TYC facilities because it was the only controversial portion. (He must have tried to insert the text of his HB 2512 into HB 2884.) That portion is not in the final bill that passed the House and was sent to the Senate.

"Chuy" said...

Okay, John Shero and Marlin will close that was the original plan. Victory Field will also most likely close based upon it's structure.

TYC is in the process of building a new 100 bed facility outside of Houston (a pilot) to see how this works and also the fiscal impact.

Most likely no other facility will close but look who is making the decisions??

A smart person with some insight would hold off on any other closer to see what transpires with the "No Misdemeanors". But the judges will send these same youth to TYC as felons (VIO-B) and the impact or reduction in overall numbers should not be that significant.

I did say a person with insight would figure this out, I cant promise that, but common sense and caution on everyones part would hold off on anymore closures. I don't care how many contract beds you open, the agency would really put it self out there if they relied on contract beds.

The reason I state this is based upon the new rules of hiring folks that will apply to all contract beds. No felons and misdemeanors. Can you imagine trying to hire a guard for contract at $8.00. Contract care makes money by hiring at the lowest possible dollar and I don't see this happening.

Lastly, there is no way TYC can downsize and build all the facilities required under Duttons bill. It's not in the budget and if you paid attention to Madden even he balked at Kimbroughs 1 to 6 ration based upon money, do you really think they would approve this???????

Anonymous said...

All the bills and education and pie in the sky thinkers are wonderful. But I ask you - do they have balls enough to put on the uniform and work a dorm with these criminals for a week. I guarantee you they would not last 8 hours. It is a very dangerous job, and getting more so everyday that they give more power to the youth on these campuses. Won't be long - I'm sure - til they offer congugal visits to the girlfriends. Our hard earned tax money at work@

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer - and a Texan - I wonder if closing the outlying facilities and putting them in urban areas is very smart....I think NOT. Heck the gangbangers and their homey's can get jobs in URBAN TYC and take care of their own. WAKE UP AMERICA!!! Will someone PLEASE use some sense and take the silver spoon our of your mouth

Gritsforbreakfast said...

On postponing the bill until 6-1, that's just sort of an insider's joke that means the bill's dead. There may be a special session, but it will likely be on transportation, not TYC, at least if the major bills get through.

Thanks for the clarification on HB 2884 - now that you say that about removing the facility changes, I think that's why I stopped watching it, so my apologies for dropping the ball and not tracking the details. It's cool to have commenters adding value and newinformation in the comments. Thanks!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I do think, though, the provision about no misdemeanants made it into SB 103 which has already passed.

whitsfoe said...

It did, and TYC was will be capped at a population of at either 2500 or 3000 beds, unless approved by the Gov. That's a little less than half our capcity.

We are starting to see the impact from the community critcism. See the Austin American Statesman concerning TYC's parole department and how they were portrayed. The communities will continue to get hacked off when a parolee takes a hit off the peace pipe and opposed to locking him up in an institution, we made him write an essay of thinking errors. I bet he had a difficult time remembering those thinking errors!

Apparently, the kid didn't qualify for drug treatment, and these are self imposed policies from the previous administration that we're in the process of tearing up and rewriting. And quit frankly, for those who have been frustrated for some time now, we are enjoying this process.... just making life easier for everyone.

And Grits, you might want check your calander to see if you can attend this blue ribbon panel this week. It's going to be at UT headed by experts across the nation that deals with juvenile justice issue. They'll be discussing the best treatment programs for juvenile offenders. I don't have my calander, but I think it's going to be Wednesday and Thursday. Anyone out there that has the details, please post this information.

Anonymous said...

Whitsfoe, do you have any more information about that UT panel? Any links you can provide would be great... thanks.

billt said...

to sunray's wench...on the good time thing, hb44...after 1996, 3g offenses (aggravated) have to serve 1/2 of sentence before they are ELIGIBLE for parole (doesn't mean they'll get it, no matter how good they are.) Really, good time is meaningless, regardless of offense since the BPP has the final say so. How many inmates go with no cases, become ELIGIBLE for parole, then get turned down? This discussion has been in Grits before, it gets down to the BPP being made accountable for following their own rules.

sunray's wench said...

bilt ~ yup, that was pretty much how I understood it to work. Thanks :)

lindad said...

to Sunray's comments: I had great hopes that this would be changed by the legislature this time. Sen. Whitmire has labeled 3g a "failed experiment" for the very reasons sunray quoted. 3g offenders do not have mandatory supervision, which is the only real use of good time. the 1/2 requirement for parole eligibility is specifically without the consideration of good time. In reality, the BPP and the administration have determined that offenders should serve 85% of their sentence. There is the problem of course-everyone ends up serving a life sentence.
This issue is now the subject of 2 federal lawsuits (Sirak, class action Western District and Gross, Southern District)because the jury charge erroneously says that offenders MAY have their sentences reduced by good conduct time; leading of course to multiplying of sentences. Unfair, of course. Costly to us all, but 'tuff' naturally.

whitsfoe said...

To annon @10:56 - as soon as I get back in the office, I'll get the time and place. I don't have access to it at home. It really ought to be interesting to see and hear from these national experts on what they believe is the best services for juvenile offenders. They’re coming from all over the nation, and it really should intrigue anyone in juvenile justice to hear. I'd love to attend myself to see where we’re going, but it looks like I'll be too busy next week. But for those of you who are curious, the TYC is moving quickly now to rebuild, and it's looking very promising for those of us who wanted to change the damn thing for years... and there's this one lady we borrowed from TDCJ that's leading the way. That Dimtrius Pope is a pistol. I hope she likes us too and stays on board because she's a no non-sense, kick the barriers down kinda gal, and many of us would like to see her stay. I haven't felt as good about what's going to happen to the agency in YEARS.

Now watch, now that I said that, someone will come on and complain about something. Please people, have some faith, be patient, hang-on, and take a wait and see approach before you complain about anything!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any idea how the Sirak suit is going? I for one would like to see him win this suit.

From what I understand the BPP as making 3g's sever 1/2 of their sentence and then requiring them to serve 85%, which is why Senator Whitmire jumped so hard on Rissis Owens. The juged rules and 1/2 of 10=5 and that is in years and any way you look at it. He gave her quiet a tongue lashing and I hear more and more are making parole. She was making the calls and knows nothing about the persons who are up for parole. I for one would like to see her retire and join Deal Ole Ed on a deserted island somewhere, anywhere but Texas.

PAPA said...

(1997)"GOOD TIME" An Offender's behavior affects not only custody level, but also time earning status.Inmates receive good-time credit for behaving well and praticipating in work and self-improvement programs while in prison. Good-time credits added to the Offender's actual calendar time served determine elegibility for release on parole and mandatory supervision.TDCJ awards good-time credit to Inmates based on the offender's security level and other work credits and bonuses. Inmates entering ID receive an assignment of Line Class I minimum (in) Custody, earning 20 days of good-time for every 20 calendar days served. After six months, offenders become eligible for promotion to higher time-earning classes, called State Approved Tusty (SA) I, II, III, and IV. TDCJ may upgarade this assignment to minimum (out) or outside trust custody at any time. Offenders who misbehave may be demoted to line Class II or Line Class III Status, which means they earn less or no good-time. Inmates in disciplinary status are not eligible for promtion for one year after their last major disciplinary case. The table, Time Earning Categories-75th Legislature, shows the custody levels and how they correlate to the differnt time-earning classes current in effect.Under current law, an Offender may earn a maximum good-time award of 30 days plus an additional 115 days of good-time for participating in a work program. This maximum good time award is 45 days of addtional credit for each 30 days served. The actual amount of good-time credit is based on the statue that was in effect when the offender was convicted. Prison officials my take away all or part of an Inmate's good time for misbehavior.Once forfeited, good time can not be restored. SAT I,SAT II, SAT III (min out and Min in), for 30 days served - Good Time and Work Time = 45 days; SAT IV-25 days served - 40 days Good and Work; Line Class I=20 days served, good time and work time = 35 days, Line Class II (close or medium custody) 10 days serviced gets 25 GT,Work; Line Class III (close or med Custody)(all this depends on the Inmates Custody Level and Line Class. This information comes directly from the Sunset Advisory Commission Staff Report of 1998. These reports are Free for the asking. Anyone having anything to do with the prison system needs to read these Reports plus there is a Free report from the Senate Commission on Corrections and a Free one on Parole.(Ex:sentenced to 10 years - time served, good time, work time = 10 years, then when Inmate receives parole certificate, he/she has to sign back the good time and work time to The State, which he is then paroled but has to do 5 years on parole to complete the 10 years sentence) What is the problem with this: #1. Guards find out Inmate close to parole (or guard does not like the Inmates) does everything they can to create a problem so the Inmate loses their good time including falsifying discplinary reports .#2.Discrimination against the medical patients who are unable to work due to disability.Once and Inmate is on parole and has served 50% of his/her parole time, the street time can not be taken away.(there are some stipulations but real involved, which the government always gives themselves an opened door.)There are major problems in the parole divison of the Criminal Justice System that needs to get as much attention as the TYC has received.Lot of Power Hungry people in the Parole Division that loves having control over another person's life. They have too much power.Another big issues with parole is people's lives do not operation on a M-F 8-5 schedule closed all the Government holidays...then the parolee can not make contact with anyone, then the next thing they know they are headed back to prison.One Example is out here in West Texas in the Oil Field where most parolees can get a job, they work out in rural areas, if the rig goes down or they have a problem the crew can not leave the site, most of them ride to the rig with their drillers, they don't have a way to get back to town, then they are in big trouble because they can not contact anyone as to what is happening.The reporting in process is nearly an all day process, that the parolee has to take off from work,which employers don't like this because they don't have someone to cover for them while they have to go report in. The Power, Controlling, munipulating Parole Officers favorite thing to to make the parole wait as long as possible, one reason they know they are waiting to go to the bathroom so they can give their urine sample, then just because they like to make them wait.I think if the parole office doesn't see them within 30 minutes as to their appointment time, they should be free to sign in and leave.The parole office should be opened 24/7 enabling parolees to come in when they get off from work or before they go to work, and if they have a problem.It is a racket that keeps our prisons full and keeps the parole system in operation.As One Inmate from another state said, Texas if the only place you get sentenced to 10 years and receive a life sentence.Thank you.

Anonymous said...

To "chuy" at 10:53 0n 5/19/07...what do you mean by Victory Field's closure due to its structure? I am assuming you mean the floorplan, but I thought there were a few others built the same way. Could you elaborate on that if you are able to please...thx

Anonymous said...

still haven't figured out how to do the links but here is announcement of the MONDAY/TUESDAY meeting about the future of juvenile justice in Texas. This is an enourmous event in my opinion. I have been scouring to see who all is going to be there but haven't been able to come up with anyone yet. I am sure Ohio will be there because we have already paid a bunch of them a ton of money to evaluate TYC. I am sure they are trying to get Missouri there as well. I hope they get someone from Wisonsin there as well. Staff and researchers at the Mendota facility there have published some interesting stuff about significant reductions of violent recidivism/with far fewer days incarceration among the most serious violent offender using an intensive treamtent model as opposed to the correctional model.

http://www.utexas.edu/opa/news/2007/05/social_work16.html

Anonymous said...

another link with names of those attending the Blue Ribbon Task Force:

http://www.utexas.edu/ssw/faculty/springer/e/brtf_membership.pdf

so much for my assumptions about who will be there...

Anonymous said...

well i tried that last one from cutting and pasting but it didn't work. Dr. Springer from UT Social Work Department is the chair. There is a link to the task force from his University home page.


http://www.utexas.edu/ssw/faculty/springer/

Anonymous said...

"chuy"...
I had heard about the TYC pilot project but assumed it was going to be in the Dallas area (based on the authorship of the legistlation). Do you know a physical location of this site?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, to all, to insert links you just need to know the very most basic HTML code tag.

Here's a page with information about how to create links. It's very easy.

Anonymous said...

That UT panel should be a good one, wish I could be there.

There is a PDF available via the UT web page that lists the blue ribbon panel.

It is a long list of members and includes some big names, topped (in my view) by Barry Krisberg of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

sunray's wench said...

to Lindad & papa ~ thank you both. The bigger the explanation of 'good time', the murkier it all seems to get! If there are sympathetic ears in the House and Senate, then I think this is a good project to push for the next Legislature. I am going to write to a couple of those sympathetic ears and off my help in any way, because despite trying to contact folks at the Texas Families Association or whatever they are called, all I get is bounced or ignored emails. I guess it's because I'm a foreigner :(

"Chuy" said...

I don't know for certain about Victory Field but based upon being old, not designed for TYC, two story buildings, and yes it is remote. But, it should be the third TYC facility to close, I know I sound like one of the many elected officials who should know but does not, I think I will run for office this is so easy, tell people (the masses) what you think they want to hear but when it effects a certain group make excuses and rationalize.

Same thing about the pilot program (100 bed facility), it was said to be placed outside of Houston based upon the amount of youth from this region. But, once again this is not a for sure thing.

I really do not understand why anyone with any sense might think a 100 bed facility would not be better than a 350 bed facility. Of course smaller numbers are more manageable, I am glad we elected these folks to come up with these wise decisions. I am sure they were not the same folks in office back in 1995 when these mammoth open bay dorms were being built for TYC?

Anonymous said...

Regarding good time and parole. I am encouraged that there are a couple of law suits regarding jury instructions related to parole and policies of the BPP. BPP doesn't follow their own rules and rewards for good time are simply non-existant. That is the reality in Texas today despite an indecipherable system of granting good time. The citizens of Texas are told time and time again that good time can shorten the time in prison. The fact is good conduct doesn't make a bit of difference and the only people that understand that are the prisoners.

Anonymous said...

Concerned VFCA Anons--
I have only seen Victory Field identified for closure in the initial HB 1756 fiscal note. I have heard that details for that fiscal note were provided by the old TYC administration. The reason that the names disappeared from the second iteration of the fiscal note was that the new TYC administration decided it was smarter not to name specific facilities. Like Chuy, I have also heard that VFCA was named by old TYC admin because of its two-story layout. Apparently the stairways are quite problematic in terms of abuse/violence/misconduct?

Anon at 10:12--
You're thinking of SB 1295 by West (of Dallas), which will create pilot juvenile probation programs to divert kids from TYC in counties over 800,000. I believe what Chuy is talking about is a TYC initiative to pilot smaller facilities.

Anonymous said...

here is not a definate answer about victory field but i have heard from an inside source it is closing as well as west texas and if you look at the funding it was deleted for victory field this session

Anonymous said...

How reliable is your source 11:17? I work at Victory Field and it feels like doomsday every day. They keep telling us we're okay, but I don't feel like it is at all. I've been there ten years, and I have never seen people quitting like they are right now. The JCO staff are working 12 hour shifts and they are not hiring people to replace the ones they've lost.

Any news is better than NO news!!!

Anonymous said...

It's ironic that Texas spends tens of millions of dollars paying certified teachers to teach GED prep to convicted adult felons (Windham School District)when no certification is required to teach GED prep......Just read the workbook and take the test...
And then, not allow certified teachers to teach high school credits to kids in TYC..when these kids are required by law to return to public schools upon release from TYC.......HB2884