A couple of legislators' responses printed so far included references to criminal justice policy matters. Indeed, Garland Republican Fred Hill thought leadership from Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden was the highlight of the session. You can read Hill's full response here, but here's what he had to say about the Corrections Chairman:
Watching my colleague Rep. Jerry Madden of Richardson rise to the challenge of dealing with the Texas Youth Commission tragedy was a bright spot. Jerry, a West Point graduate, has never been given the chance to truly lead. This time he was thrust into an unforeseen situation.
As chairman of Corrections, Jerry, a Republican, worked with his committee, made up primarily of Democrats. Under Jerry's leadership all pulled together to meet the challenge of TYC. What this illustrates to me is that while politics has its place and will never be eliminated, a bipartisan effort can be achieved with the proper leadership. We don't have to accept Washington-style politics as the norm. Jerry gets my vote as, not just one of Texas Monthly's 10 best, but best of the session.
Fred Hill represents House District 112, which includes parts of Richardson and Garland.
Like Hill, I'd agree that Chairman Madden's performance chairing the Corrections Committee was perhaps the session's highlight, certainly in the House. Though I certainly didn't agree with the Richardson Republican on every subject, whenever we differed I felt like he gave full hearing to those who disagreed with him, often accommodating their main concerns when he didn't necessarily have to do so. Madden worked his bills like a seasoned pro and had a very high success rate passing them. He combined focused leadership with a willingness to compromise to get his bills through.
Meanwhile, Rep. Terri Hodge's response to the News' question about her biggest regret lamented Governor Rick Perry's inexplicable veto of two of her bills. I completely share her disappointment
that, due to a lack of knowledge, Gov. Perry vetoed two major pieces of legislation that I authored to improve our criminal justice system: HB 44 and HB 47.
With approximately 150,000 inmates in our prisons and a shortage of approximately 3,400 correctional officers to manage our prison population, HB 44 would have given wardens the discretion to restore lost good-conduct time to non-violent offenders who have violated a non-violent prison rule.
This legislation would have provided wardens a tool to better manage the inmate population while maintaining safe prisons and providing an incentive for inmates to improve their behavior.
HB 47 would have allowed offenders housed in administrative segregation to participate in in-cell home study educational courses. As of April 2007, there were 9,338 offenders housed in administrative segregation. They are confined to a 6- by 10-foot cell for 23 hours a day, and several have been there for 15 years or more. Many will be released into our communities directly from administrative segregation, having participated in no rehabilitation, educational or vocational programs.
HB 47 would have allowed the offender to purchase and use in-cell educational study materials at no cost to taxpayers, all the while helping to rehabilitate our Texas prison population.
Terri Hodge represents House District 100, which includes parts of Dallas and Mesquite. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org