Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sheriff to TDCJ and Governor: House your own parolees, then

After Governor Perry vetoed legislation to relieve jail overcrowding by allowing bail for certain parolees held in the county jail on technical violations, now some Sheriffs may just take matters into their own hands ("Jail to limit parolees," SA Express News, Aug. 4):

Atascosa County Sheriff Tommy Williams recently began instructing deputies to turn away parolees arrested solely on so-called "blue warrants," for technical violations such as failing to report to a parole officer or failing to provide a change of address.

"We have so many of them here and the state leaves them here a long time," said David Soward, chief deputy of the Atascosa County Sheriff's Office. "We've had them stay over a year."

Soward said the policy isn't applied to parolees who commit new crimes. The jail will continue to accept them, he said.

But the sheriff's office won't continue to absorb the cost of housing violators of technicalities when the county could make money by leasing the same bed space to other law enforcement agencies.

Adan Muñoz, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, said there's nothing his agency can do to force sheriffs to house technical parole violators.

"There's no provision or statue that they can get penalized," Muñoz said. "That's their decision. If he or she can live with that, then it's their discretion."

But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice isn't as understanding.

"If they have violated the law, I would think it's their obligation for them to enforce the law," department spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said. "The reality is it may not be against the law, but it also doesn't seem right."

No, Ms. Lyons, what doesn't seem right is you blaming the vicitms of bad policy, in this case Sheriffs and jail administrators, when the real culprit is your own, broken agency and the Governor who vetoed the Sheriffs' preferred solution. Instead you're blaming them for a problem caused by your agency and the Governor.

Remember, Ms. Lyons, confession is the first step on the path to redemption!

The problem by no means affects just this one county. Reported the Express-News, "About a third of the Bexar lockup's 552 parole violators were arrested on blue warrants and have not committed any new offense." What's new here is that the Atascosa Sheriff may have found a way for Sheriffs and local jail administrators to turn the table on the Governor's ill-conceived veto. More Sheriffs with overcrowded jails should replicate this this policy.

In the meantime, local Sheriffs, courts and other law enforcement agencies right now need to prepare to implement HB 2391 when it takes effect Sept 1. That's the one significant overcrowding solution the Governor did approve.

At least until 2009 that may be all the help they're getting, unless Sheriffs follow their Atascosa brethren's lead and begin to help themselves.


Anonymous said...

August 3rd, 2007

Southeastern Christian Association

8710 Valley Forest

Houston, TX 77078

To: Governor Barbour, Mississippi State Legislature, and Mississippi State Senate

This is a letter of tremendous concern. It is somewhat trying when the Commissioner of the Mississippi State Prison System, as well as, the wardens have endangered the lives of several inmates.

I have had the rare opportunity to speak with Mr. Epps, and he stated to me during our conversation, that a lot of the transitions happening within the prisons are orders coming directly from him. It somewhat grieves me for a man to make such a broad statement and not clarify himself. We are aware at this point that guards are beating inmates within the correctional facilities. We also know that there are guards that are being terminated because they refuse to conform to injuring and terrorizing inmates that have not provoked them or stepped out of line. Mr. Governor, my biggest concern is that there are a great number of men and women that are innocent and are being held in this prison system. Many of these inmates who are sick are being refused medical treatment for their conditions. They are being relieved of their legal paperwork, which is the inmate’s property. No one knows what is being done to their information. Mr. Epps ordered this to be done. It behooves all of us that have concern for those men and women who are innocent to correct these problems immediately.

I do understand that prison ethics and conduct is the furthest thing from your mind; but all of us have concern for the innocent ones who are locked up for crimes they did not commit. We fail to understand where there is a breakdown within the system where victims fall prey to those predators that are not innocent. We do know that it was reported most recently that one gun was found in the cell of an inmate; when in all actuality it was more than one gun found at the Parchman facility. There were also several shanks found in the possession of inmates. Mr. Governor, you and I both know that the families of the inmates are not the ones bringing in these weapons. Therefore it leaves to reason that it must be the staff members at Parchman who would do such a hideous thing.

I have spoken with Mr. Epps hoping that we would be able to work together to alleviate some of these problems, however I have found it impossible to work with someone who says one thing and does another. Inmates are being repeatedly stabbed; screaming and yelling for assistance and begging for mercy. Blood is being shed and running down the corridors of prisons and guards are turning a deaf ear to the problem. It is the obligation of Mr. Epps, the warden, and the staff to ensure the safety and well being of all inmates. Mr. Governor, I must stress to you the seriousness of this problem, not only for the inmates that did not commit any crimes; but for one of your friends, loved ones, associates, even you sir, who can go to prison and be at the mercy of those men and women who have reigned terror over an inmate.

We notified Mr. Epps over fifteen days ago about a warden at the East Mississippi Correctional facility, regarding a female lieutenant who was terminated after rejecting the advances of the warden. However, he did not stop there. He proceeded to pull up his pant leg which revealed a tattoo of a knife with a sword which stands for the Ku Klux Klan, thereby associating himself with the Aryan Brotherhood. He even went as far as to ask the lieutenant if she had been with a man outside of her race. Upon her rejection and filing a complaint, she was terminated.

This lieutenant of whom I write, has only been written up once during her time as a rookie. She was against all of the detrimental treatment of the inmates to which she has witnessed. No inmate should be made to walk the halls of a prison naked, slammed into the walls by the warden, and placed on lock down for a period of sixty days to four years. No inmate should have to endure that treatment because the warden feels that he has the power or authority to do so.

Mr. Governor, there are federal laws concerning the protection, safety, and well being of inmates on lockdown for extensive periods of time. There are federal laws concerning the protection of female guards from harassment. Only you sir have the authority to correct these issues. We ask that you call for an emergency hearing regarding the vicious treatment of these inmates, the concerns for those incarcerated that are innocent and protection for guards who refuse to conform to the negative and disrespectful treatment of the inmates.

I thank you for your time and consideration in this unfortunate matter.


Reverend Dr. Le Roy Gillam

outspoken woman said...

I fail to understand why Mr. Gillam is addressing a Mississippi governor on a TEXAS blog. His efforts would be better forwarded by mail than wasting space on Grits. We have numerous problems in Texas that should be addressed here.

I applaud the sheriffs who are not housing technical violators for TDCJ. The number of prisoners incarcerated on technical violations is ridiculous and if the illustrious Governor Perry would do his homework, he would find he could empty a vast number of beds in TDCJ by letting these prisoner go home.
I certainly don't see anyone chewing on the parole officer in Houston who forgot appointments and made the parolee take another day off work. The nasty little shrew though it was funny when he couldn't pay his rent.
Let's not forget the other little shrew in El Paso who decided another parolee needed to attend AA only after he became gainfully employed and had been out of prison for two months.
Once again, until our legislators put their foot down or their foot somewhere near the backside of Perry, we are going to continue to have full prisons.
Hurray to the sheriffs who won't listen to Michelle Lyons and her lame excuses.

Jared said...

Aren't they supposed to have a hearing within 59 days?

Anonymous said...