Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roundup of think tank's criminal justice work product

The latest e-newsletter from the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Effective Justice featured links to much of director Marc Levin's excellent work over the last several months which I'm certain will interest Grits readers:
1) Recent Publications

Measuring Performance in the Juvenile Justice System

As the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) and Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC) undergo sunset review, their performance measures should be enhanced to focus more on outcomes such as restitution to victims, recidivism, educational progress, and administrative costs.

Occupational Licensing & Overcriminalization: Testimony Before the House Government Reform Committee

Texas regulates too many occupations, applies excessive criminal penalties to violations of licensing rules, and too often prevents otherwise qualified individuals from obtaining licenses because of a minor and sometimes decades-old conviction.

Recommendations Submitted to the Sunset Commission on Reforming the Texas Youth Commission and Juvenile Probation Commission

This document highlights key reforms that would strengthen the state’s juvenile justice system, such as changing the funding system to incentivize positive outcomes and provider greater flexibility for counties to utilize local facilities and programs instead of TYC.

Five Technological Solutions for Texas' Correctional and Law Enforcement Challenges

Advances in electronic monitoring, alcohol detection, and interoperability between law enforcement and private security can produce better public safety results while minimizing costs to taxpayers.

Work Release: Con Job or Big Payoff for Texas?

The Texas experience and evidence from around the nation indicates that work release programs that properly monitor and carefully screen participants can reduce recidivism and costs to taxpayers while protecting public safety.

2) Commentaries

Rewrite Texas Graffiti Laws

This piece, which appeared in the Houston Chronicle, argues graffiti laws in Texas cities should be changed to empower victims and communities while holding offenders accountable.

Getting More Out of Prisons

This commentary published in the Fort Worth Star Telegram spotlights the criminal justice blueprint released by the British Conservative Party that advocates funding prisons and parole partially based on outcomes such as recidivism and discusses similar initiatives in Texas.

3) Speaking Freely Postings & Podcasts

Measuring Performance in the Juvenile Justice System (podcast)

More Money for More of the Same (podcast)


Anonymous said...

Motorists found the body of Brandon McClelland, a 24-year-old black man, on a county road in Lamar County, up near the Red River, on Sept. 16. At first police thought it was a hit-and-run, but they later arrested two white men, Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley, both 27 and charged them with Mr. McClelland's murder and with tampering with evidence.

Prosecutors say that the three men, who were friends, were riding in Mr. Finley's pickup on a drinking binge when there was an argument, Mr. McClelland got out and Mr. Finley ran over him. They also accuse Mr. Finley and Mr. Crostley of taking the truck to a Powderly car wash in an effort to remove evidence. It didn't work, because criminalists found human blood on the truck's undercarriage.

The District Attorney's office reports there is no evidence that this was a hate crime, but the victim's family and advocates from Paris, the county seat, and beyond, insist that it is indeed a hate crime and that prosecutors are either covering that up or are so insensitive to the issue that they are simply ignoring the fact that two white men killed a black man.

The district attorney and two of his assistants, the Paris city manager, local ministers, a co-chair of Paris' year-old Diversity Task Force, the president of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce and the president and legal counsel of the Paris Chapter of the NAACP invited me to meet with them after I indicated on a blog that I was going to write about the situation.

Pike Burkhart, the chamber president, said the Shaquanda Cotton (TYC) incident two years ago came as a surprise to many in the community. Ms. Cotton, a 14-year-old Paris High School student, was found delinquent in a jury trial on an assault charge for shoving a teacher's aide and was sent to the Texas Youth Commission.

Many in the black community decried this as proof of bias, citing the case of a white teen who was given probation after burning down her family's home.

Prosecutors insist they followed the law, but the case brought national media attention to Paris and most of it was negative.

Community advocates like Brenda Cherry and Creola Cotton, Shaquanda's mother, told me that white community leaders are in denial about racial problems. The whites point to the formation of the diversity task force and the city's finally finding funding for demolition of a dilapidated apartment block in a predominantly balck neighborhood as evidence of their good will.

A Houston-based blogger and an AP reporter have referred to Mr. McClelland's death as a "dragging death" and compared it to the murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper TX in 1998.

They have suggested that, like two of the men convicted of that crime, Mr. Finley joined a white supremacist in prison, but that is almost certainly not the case.

Groups and bloggers from throughout the state and even out of state have been talking about the McClelland case and feelings are strong on both sides -- among people who feel it was a racist act that's being covered up and among others who claim that troublemakers are using it as an excuse to foment conflict.

In talking about race relations in Lamar County, the subject of the lynchings (especially one in 1920 that still resonates) almost always comes up, along with grievances about under-representaion of African-Americans in jobs at the courthouse and elsewhere. And then there is the Confederate statue. Black Parisians told me it casts a chill on them when they walk up to the courthouse and see that memorial to a past that they see as evil. White Parisians see it as a reminder to their history. The Confederate statue overshadows smaller stones raised in honor of the veterans of 20th century wars - WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam."


But just vote....

Anonymous said...

The Civil War ended 150 years ago. Only the obsessed are offended by statutes. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Anon the first had a good comment, nearly a good article in itself.

One item it brings up is the concept of "hate crime" enhancement of criminal prosecution. This has always troubled me.

The old saw about "hard cases make bad law" comes to mind. Certainly cases such as the Byrd dragging death make it appealing to really stick it to that type of offender. I am still leary.

Juries have a tough enough job deciding cases on the facts in evidence. Inviting them to play psychologist and explore the motives behind an offense opens the door to a world of politically correct, or incorrect nonsense.

To me the term "hate crime" is a product of political correctness, if you will. What of the criminal offenses committed by what the Irish used to call Ordinary Decent Criminals? From grafitti to DWI, do ODCs get sentencing consideration for what, "love crimes"?

My view, the hate crimes statutes are an invitation to mischief in the name of whatever might be the cause of the day. Having limited judges' discretion by sentencing mandates, we now turn that function over to laymen of the juries.

Anonymous said...

The previous string was getting a bit old so I moved to the new one. We were finally getting onto something on that string. Someone observed, "Lydia has a dubious reputation going back to her time at San Saba.."

What about before San Saba? Lydia, like so many of the special ones, got her start at Giddings and her act was full blown when she left there. She was Stan's girl and he groomed her and they were completely loyal to each other over many years. She was eager to absorb all he had to teach and he taught her well. Since we have all seen this pattern play out throughout TYC and read some of the stories we can now look at how and where this developed.

In the previous string someone commented on the pattern of administrators sleeping with those they directly supervised. This has been widespread but, as far as I know, this was the first time it has been revealed in Grits. This behavior has been epidemic at TYC, and most everyone either supported it or kept quite about it. We all knew about it.

Why not investigate how widespread this pattern has been and how it has contaminated the supervisory process at TYC from top to bottom.

The new team coming in has a chance to look at what kind of agency this is. Most of the interesting stories are still waiting to be looked at.

Anonymous said...

Skiing Down Old Crow Mountain

With the economy what it is, I have an idea that might help pick things back up in Texas. I've been thinking about all those empty Old Crow bottles the security staff picked up at the TYC residences over the years. They were left over from the parties the Supers and Asst. Supers threw at the houses for their JCO and PA pals.

My idea is that if you went to West Texas in the panhandle where it snows and piled up them dead soldiers you would have a sizable mound. Then, if you covered it with a foot or two of top soil you could have a pretty nice ski slope. I suggest we call it Old Crow Mountain. We might even put Ruidosa out of business, most of their customers are from Texas anyway. Now where did they put all them bottles?