Houston city councilman proposes inmate re-entry 'welcome center'
Harris County has a larger population - about 3.5 million - than more than half of US states. In addition, because of local prosecutorial and policing practices, they incarcerate a disproportionate share of their citizens compared to other large cities and the rest of Texas. So it makes a lot of sense, if you want to prevent crime, to pay attention to folks returning to your community from prison. Houston City Councilmember Peter Brown wants to create a welcome center where the Greyhound bus drops off inmates in downtown Houston to offer "job counseling and social guidance." I'll tell you right now, the two things they need are jobs and a place to live - help them there on the front end, and I'll bet Houston could prevent quite a bit of future crime down the line.
Collin County DA takes courageous stand against TV vigilantes
Big kudos to Collin County District Attorney John Roach for refusing to prosecute cases based on the NBC Dateline TV show's infamous "To Catch a Predator" series - he said he won't pursue indictments in 24 cases stemming from the show's investigation, the first district attorney in the country to refuse. He told AP "neither police nor NBC could guarantee the chat logs were authentic and complete." By comparison to Dateline, AP reported, "Eric Nichols, a Texas deputy attorney general, said that when law enforcement authorities pull an Internet sex sting, officers posing as decoys follow strict rules. Detailed chat logs are kept to ensure that 'sex talk' is initiated by the potential predator. That way, a defendant cannot claim entrapment."
Everybody wants to build a jail
The county commissioners court in Midland thinks a new jail is necessary. In Huntsville, Walker County officials foolishly are proposing new jail construction on the assumption that a new facility will "generate revenue for the county." (Wanna bet?) In Brenham a surfeit of female inmates is making it impossible to meet state jail standards. A new jail proposed in Bryan-College Station would require a 2 cent increase in the property tax. The billion dollar jail-and-courts bond package proposed in Harris County would result in nearly the same tax hike, estimated at 1.73 cents, or require massive cuts elsewhere to avoid a tax increase. In Palestine, voters approved a jail expansion plan with a low-balled budget, but construction defects and extra expenses may tie the thing up in litigation and keep it from opening. In Lubbock a new jail wing just opened that cost taxpayers $96 million plus interest. They'll need to hire 140 more guards in Lubbock to staff the facility, but I'd bet dollars to donuts they can't find that many people. The can't find enough guards in Dallas, that's for sure.
TYC ombudsman under fire
More on this soon, but the Texas Youth Commission's new ombudsman, who happens to be Will Harrell, my former boss from ACLU of Texas, is taking some media-generated heat from politicians who're criticizing his plan for the new office. Reading between the lines, this was a bit of a hit job by Austin Statesman reporter Mike Ward, who generated the response from legislators himself with an open record request and reported the story before Harrell had seen their letter. Will's response "I asked for $3.5 million (for two years), and I got $600,000 to do this job. And I have no staff until Sept. 1." Although the overhaul legislation took effect immediately, the new state budget does not take effect until this fall. "The Legislature has given me a huge unfunded mandate," he added. "I'm working right now on assistance from foundations and through grants." I've asked Will for a copy of his plan and the legislators' letter, so I'll post them soon and let readers see for themselves what the fuss is about and what y'all think about it.
Another day, another corrupt LEO
A Dallas County Constable has resigned amidst a corruption scandal, reports the Morning News: "Thursday began with a court hearing in which Mr. Dupree lost his final chance to avoid a jury trial that would have sought his removal. At trial, dozens of employee allegations – many of them sexual and criminal in nature – probably would have been aired." You tell me, is this justice? He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and will avoid jail, but here were the allegations in the removal petition:
America has more prisoners than ever
• Ordered one of his deputies to plant cocaine on election opponents during traffic stops.
• Ordered the same deputy to shoot out his car windows so he could file a police report blaming an opponent for the incident.
• Made inappropriate social and sexual advances toward employees.
• Had an employee drive him around Oak Cliff so he could flirt with young Hispanic men.
• Ordered a deputy to dismiss traffic tickets written to young Hispanic men so he could see them socially.
Finally, nationwide prison admissions have jumped more than 17% since 2000, and the US prison population is at its highest level ever at 2.2 million people.