Precinct-level battles on the GOP side have long ago been won, by and large, by the religious right, and are mostly attended by party regulars. On the D-side, though, this year's precinct conventions will see a lot of new faces. Democrats get to "vote twice" for President: Once at the ballot box, and for the committed, again on election night selecting delegates at their local precinct convention.
One of the roles of these "conventions" in both parties (besides selecting presidential delegates and party leadership) is to propose resolutions for legislative action or changes to the party platform. The missus liked the resolution I wrote on prison and jail diversion, and suggested that readers might appreciate it if one were prepared about the Texas Youth Commission.
I agree, but on this one, I'm going to propose a draft and let folks make suggestions for changes and improvements before creating a final version. Then next week I'll roll out a little mini-blog based campaign to support both resolutions, just to see how far we can take the idea. If you're going to attend your precinct convention anyway - as will record numbers of Democrats, I predict, to support their presidential choices - you can take these resolutions with you and see if you can garner support.
Proposing resolutions in this fashion serves a couple of purposes: Though hardly anyone reads the platforms (deservedly), if you can get a resolution passed, a letter from the party telling the party delegation to support X, Y, and Z carries some weight. Perhaps more importantly, though, the process of getting them passed (or even proposing them and failing) educates party regulars and opinion leaders about problems and needed solutions on the issues you're discussing.
Though the language below is written for presentation at the Texas Democratic Party, obviously you could change that to the "Republican Party of Texas" and propose it on the GOP side, if that's where you vote. Both support and opposition for these ideas is pretty bipartisan.
While I've written before that "Blogs are a media strategy, not an activist medium," that belief is based on analysis, not real-world experimentation and evaluating results. Since I wrote that, e.g., Grits' readership has probably quintupled. So who knows if it remains true in today's dynamic environment? (It's certainly worth launching a low-stakes experiment to find out.)
Let me know what you'd add, change, delete, etc., with the language below, then next week we'll put together some tools to assist Grits readers who'd like to promote these resolutions when you go to support your candidate. Here's a draft of the TYC resolution:
RESOLUTON CALLING FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE IMPROVEMENTS AND REFORM OF THE TEXAS YOUTH COMMISSIONWhat would you change? What do you like? What should be added or deleted? Let me know what you think in the comments and we'll get a final version out next week.
WHEREAS the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) became embroiled last year in an internationally publicized sex scandal involving multiple facilities that cast a harsh light on problems in the state's juvenile justice system, causing its executive director and most top staff to resign or be fired;
WHEREAS the Governor's initial appointments to run TYC all came from the adult prison system and wrongfully spent the last year implementing policies based on an adult corrections approach;
WHEREAS a Blue Ribbon Panel convened to suggest solutions for TYC proposed shifting from large, adult-style units to smaller, community-based settings following national best practices;
WHEREAS the Blue Ribbon Panel found that TYC had developed a "punishment culture" similar to adult prison settings including overuse of physical restraints and solitary confinement, and recommended a shift toward a rehabilitative model;
WHEREAS most incarcerated youth in TYC facilities committed nonviolent offenses and end up there because local systems for educating and supporting kids with special needs have failed;
WHEREAS virtually all TYC youth will re-enter society in just a few years, and under the current "punishment culture" more than half commit new offenses when they leave incarceration;
WHEREAS TYC, like the adult prison system, suffers from chronic understaffing that makes both employees and youth in their care less safe and prevents treatment and rehabilitative programming;
WHEREAS because of underfunding by the Legislature and a lack of qualified treatment providers, youth sent to TYC routinely spend many extra months incarcerated waiting for spots in required treatment programs;
WHEREAS a significant percentage of TYC youth suffer from unmet mental health needs, and serious problems like post-traumatic stress treatment for abused youth go untreated;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Texas Legislature to follow the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel aimed at rehabilitating youth and ending the agency's counterproductive "punishment culture";
BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to provide substantial additional funding to TYC to eliminate backlogs for drug and alcohol treatment, anger management, and other required programming, and to increase employee pay to eliminate chronic staffing shortages;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to expand programming through county juvenile probation departments and asks county juvenile court judges to shift youth whenever possible away from youth prisons to community based settings;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to prioritize expanding mental health treatment for youth in both carceral and community based settings, diverting mentally ill youth away from incarceration;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party urges county governments to expand treatment and diversion programs to reduce the number of TYC commitments.
Submitted to and Adopted by Precinct ____ in ________________ County, Texas, Senatorial District ___, on March 4, 2008.