Thursday, July 02, 2009

Inmate families viewed as revenue source instead of anti-recidivism partners

Inmate families offer the best and most frequently cited source of assistance for offenders who want to turn their lives around, but too often the state treats them as criminals, too, instead of as partners in promoting their loved ones' rehabilitation.

That trend was exacerbated by a Texas Supreme Court ruling last month allowing the state to deduct money from inmate commissary accounts to pay for court fees and victim restitution. According to the Austin Statesman ("Ruling gives courts access to inmate trust funds," June 30):
Texas state prison convicts could soon see their trust funds — more than $33 million overseen by the state — getting tapped to pay overdue court costs and related expenses.

A recent Texas Supreme Court decision allows prison officials to withdraw funds from the inmate trust accounts without first notifying a convict.

Before that, officials said, convicts had to be alerted in advance so they could challenge the garnishment — and many did.

"This changes everything — and allows the counties to go in and collect back court fees and costs up front, and the inmate will have to challenge that after the fact," said Huntsville lawyer Bill Habern, who is familiar with the case. "That will be difficult."

In addition, he said, the debits will likely come as a surprise, because many convicts are not notified of their court costs until after they are in a prison cell, if then.

"Considering the economic situation, we expect the counties to start fleecing trust fund accounts," said Helga Dill, a Dallas-based prison rights activist. "Our concern is that the inmate is deprived of funds sent by family members who are in most cases poor. ... If an inmate can waive child support until he is released and has employment, then that should be possible with court costs as well."

Lest convicts worry that they could now wake up to find their trust funds emptied to pay old court costs, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said state law limits how much money in those accounts can be taken: only 20 percent of the initial deposit into a trust fund, and 10 percent of any subsequent deposit.

In all, prison officials said the inmate trust accounts contain more than $33.6 million — including about $17.6 million in cash and another $16 million that is invested in Treasury bills.

Although most of the accounts contain only a few hundred dollars, which convicts use to buy snacks, hygiene items and other commissary items, some funds contain much more — including inheritances and other payments they received after going to prison. As of last week. the largest account contained almost $234,000, and next-largest was more than $168,000, prison officials confirmed.

Lyons said that more than $13.5 million is being sought from the inmate accounts by court officials across Texas, though she did not know the total amount that inmates owe.
For inmates with large amounts from an inheritance or other sources of personal money, it's justifiable to seize a portion of inmate trust funds for court costs. But for the vast majority of inmates whose relatives supply what little money is in those accounts, seizing these funds harms families (since it's really their money) more than the prisoner. Perhaps by rule TDCJ should set a threshold of, say, a couple hundred dollars below which commissary funds won't be raided.

Prisoner families are similarly being squeezed by high costs for the new prison phone service, from which half of profits goes into the state crime victim compensation fund. The installation of new phone systems dramatic improved inmates' ability to stay in closer contact with families. But the state's focus on profiteering from the phone calls siphons off family resources and tangibly reduces families' interaction with their loved ones - both results that can worsen inmate recidivism.

So can inmate families afford these extra costs? Probably not, according to a recent survey of 427 relatives of returning inmates in Houston by the Urban Leauge (pdf):
As a group, the family members in this study were better educated than their returning relatives. More than seven in ten family members (71 percent) reported educational attainment at or above the high school level, and over a third (37 percent) reported at least some college education. Despite these credentials, only half (52 percent) were employed at the time of the interview. Among those who were not employed, the most common reasons provided were that they were retired or too old to work (39 percent), were permanently disabled (23 percent), or had other health problems that prevented them from working (16 percent). Among those who were employed, some were working long hours or multiple jobs. Two in five (40 percent) were working more than 40 hours per week, and one in eight (13 percent) was working more than one job. The median wage reported by employed family members was $12.00 per hour.
Assuming these are the same folks who'd likely be calling inmates in prison or contributing to their commissary accounts, these are mostly very poor people, many of whom live on fixed incomes. By creating what amount to economic punishments where families serve as stand-ins for the offender, the state lessens precisely the type of support most likely to help offenders succeed when they get back to their home communities.

In both the Supreme Court ruling and the case of phone fees, the state behaves as though families bear the same responsibility for court costs and crime reparations as the person who actually did the deed. In reality, though, if that offender is going to turn his or her life around it will more likely be because of their family's help than any punishment or assistance the state gives out. If state policies valued public safety as much as revenue generation, we'd treat inmate families as partners instead of constantly looking for ways to bleed them of cash.

79 comments:

Charlie O said...

This decision is just another indication of how Texas just plain ol' sucks. I dance everyday with the knowledge I no longer live in that sewer. Unfortunately, I have to travel there about once a month to visit my wife at Gatesville. This decision may directly affect me. I'm unsure of what monies my wife may owe. My I'm the one work earns and deposits monies into her inmate account. I'm also affected by the incredibly stupid phone system. I only have a cell phone. I've had the same number and provider for 7 years. But, hey, can't call a cellphone. So now I have to incur the added expense of installing a phone into my house in PA for the sole purpose of some arcane rule invented by the TDCJ. (And that's if and when they ever actually HAVE phone at Lane Murray). Once my wife is out of custody, I'll never set foot in Texas again. I'll even step up my letters to Governor Goodhair to follow through with that secession idea. I'll come help Texas pack and put a new border fence.

Anonymous said...

At least it sounds like your assured a visit when you come to see your wife.

Where my husband is, only 10 families a week are allowed a special visit, no matter how far they have to come. Those visits are decided by calling the Mon. before, 1st come 1st serve to get your name on the list.

So if you have a job that you need to schedule time off, need to make advanced budgeted travel reservations, or are making plans to save costs by going with a relative of another inmate you are pretty much screwed. So much for keeping the family together.

And I'm in the same position with the cell phone.

Soronel Haetir said...

Since such fees are part of the process of the offender paying their debt to society I feel little sympathy for them on this issue. If relatives want to help out with that, even better.

How often have those garnishment challenges actually succeeded? That seems like a far more pertinent indicator of the validity of such a program.

Mark#1 said...

Did you not read the post? This has little to do with "sympathy" and everything to do with fairness and rehabilitation.

Anonymous said...

Oh, brother. Cry me a freakin' river why don't ya.

gravyrug said...

Soronel, I think Grits's point is that the fees are being charged to the families, rather than the actual convict. Yes, it would be okay for the families to help pay those fees, but they should know that's what they're doing, rather than have the fees deducted without notification. I know that when my friend was inside, she never had more than a hundred bucks at a time, so unexpected fees could have substantially affected her ability to get food and personal hygiene supplies. Taking fees without notice is like stealing lunch money.

Soronel Haetir said...

So put the notification in with the broilerplate that goes along with opening a commissary account. It would not surprise me at all if there is already language that funds can be withdrawn without first notifying the convict.

I see absolutely no reason that an prior appeals cycle need be given every time a deposit is made, especially if those appeals lose for not having merit.

Anonymous said...

One thing to consider is that many of the inmates do not have much money to begin with. They either do not have family members who help them regularly or the family members are poor. Some of these inmates have 20-30 dollars to last months. I see there is an amount listed for the most money some of these inmates have. But what percentage have small accounts? Will these accounts be tapped into as well? It seems if that is the case people will stop putting more money in since the inmates won't be able to use them for commisary in any case.

sunray's wench said...

Or alternatively, the BPP could just parole more inmates. That would save TDCJ money in expenses, and gather more money in taxes once the parolee had a job (which according to the previous Grits post, most succeed in getting).

This move will simply stop many families from sending money to their inmates. In turn, this will mean that the system makes less money from commisarry sales. Nobody wins.

Some inmates may have a lot of money in their trust accounts because it is now pretty much impossible for a bank account to be set up for them while they are incarcerated. So inheritance cheques would have to be deposited into the TDCJ account - for which TDCJ earns interest, dont forget, because the inmate doesnt earn any interest at all on the money in their account.

Anonymous said...

This is a very valid problem. The State relies upon the families to pay for many things. If the families cannot put money into the inmate's account, the State has to provide the basic necessities of life.

The State uses the threat of loss of commissary rights, phone rights and visitation rights to control prisoners and the families are punished both emotionally and financially.

Then the State has the huberis to charge these very same families exhorbitant rates for phone usage, commissary prices are much higher than the local convenience store and (don't forget the local convenience store price is already much higher than a supermarket) and now they expect the families to indirectly pay for the court costs.

I hope the families will organize and boycott the phone system and stop sending commissary money for a month. I would love to see the State pay for their own greed.

Soronel Haetir said...

Aren't commissary items extras? If that is actually the case then there is no need for the state to provide such access at all. The fact that providing such access help diffuse prison tensions is strictly a bonus, revenue should be the only goal.

Anonymous said...

It is a very bad decision. If only prisoner were paid for their work, then their "income" could be equallly divided - as it is in many countries - between a trust fund account so they have money when they are released, for legal costs and victims funds and for their day to day expenses. Commissary prices are ridiculously high, families and friends are struggling to send money to prison accounts to allow prisoners to purchase stamps, pen, paper, food, medication, etc.

sunray's wench said...

Soronel Haetir ~ yes commissary items are "extras" as you put it, and they include postage stamps, writing implements and clothing that TDCJ does not provide like long johns for winter and tennis shoes instead of the heavy black state-issue boots. These are items that TDCJ do not permit to be sent in from outside, they have to be purchased by inmates from commissary.

If you think you can justify my husband not having access to the materials needed to correspond with me and the rest of his family, I'd love to hear it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"The fact that providing such access help diffuse prison tensions is strictly a bonus, revenue should be the only goal."

Uh ... says who, Soronel? Why should extracting revenue from inmate families be a more important goal than safety inside the prison or reducing recidivism when they leave ... much less the "only" goal? Explain?

Anonymous said...

I understand Grit's point that families can help lower recidivism, but I believe we can lower crime by making prisons tougher, and this is a good step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

We are in a recession, this may not even be a permanent move. I think in the end, prisons can only rip off so much money from the inmates or else families will just stop putting money in.

That 33 million was a low hanging fruit, so I wouldn't get too bent out of shape. I bet they reverse the rule after the recession is over.

Anonymous said...

If you think you can justify my husband not having access to the materials needed to correspond with me and the rest of his family, I'd love to hear it.

Here is my justification Sunray:

your husband is a criminal.

Anonymous said...

Will this affect inmates in jail or only in state prisons?

Anonymous said...

So basically Texas has just made Theft completely legal...

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the economics of this. I send my husband $20.00 every two weeks. If the state can take only 10% that would be $2.00 every time I deposit money.

How much does it cost to process that and send it to the appropriate jurisdiction. It seems like it would be a lot more.

I guess we need to get ready for the commissary prices to go up once again.

Sunray - Don't forget the fans. The inmates have to purchase those too. How can you lock a human being in a cage in the middle of a Texas summer without even a fan and pretend it is in any way humane?

Anonymous said...

Soronel,

In alot of cases these are not 'extra' items, as some places have begun serving fewer meals, and cut out some meals all together.. they use the commissary in that case to actually eat in prison. Don;t give me this about how it should be used to pay debt to society. If that were the case, then Texas cannot mandate any more work gangs for any purpose.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 3:23, that's axiomatic. We're talking about prisoners. The question is whether state policies should support relationships that reduce recidivism or take an indifferent or even (to judge by your comments) a hostile approach toward efforts to maintain and strengthen family ties.

To 3:19 - I fail to see how this makes prison "tougher" on anyone but the families, not the actual perpetrators. They play an entirely passive role and never see the money; their families will pay and the state will take its share before the money ever gets to them. How is it "tougher" on the offender to tax their relatives?

NoMoreNoloContendere said...

You Anonymous commentators are killin me here. You are forcing your good & sometimes very bad thoughts to be stored in blog history as simple timeclock tic tock lingo. Which can't be associated with anything ever again & when it's purged from a blog it's just bla, bla, bla. You'll never forget that NoMoreNoloContendere brought it to your attention via (Grits For Breakfast) *Look for more post under this name instead of 00:00

Anonymous said...

Are you somehow impaired nolo? If you have a point please make one. This blah, blah, (which would be the correct spelling) anon would like to hear it. Curious comments welcome if only somehow understandable.

Anonymous said...

No kidding, nolo are you okay? What's going on that has got you in such a tiss? I would truly like to here it. Why don't you sit round for a few and tell us all about it.

Anonymous said...

I haven't and I won't ever forget that you brought it to us by special attention and we we will forever be grateful.

What do you wish us to do now to help you?

Boyness said...

Soronel Haetir said...

Since such fees are part of the process of the offender paying their debt to society I feel little sympathy for them on this issue. If relatives want to help out with that, even better.

How often have those garnishment challenges actually succeeded? That seems like a far more pertinent indicator of the validity of such a program.

7/02/2009 09:22:00 AM
------------------------------
THEN STOP USING OFFENDER "SLAVE LABOR" AND PAY THEM SO THEY CAN PAY RESTITUTION. NO! THIS IS JUST A BAD DECISION BUT TYPICAL OF THIS STATE. WILL SOMEONE SAVE TEXAS FROM ITSELF?

Anonymous said...

TEXAS SUCKS!

Anonymous said...

“If you think you can justify my husband not having access to the materials needed to correspond with me and the rest of his family, I'd love to hear it.”

“Here is my justification Sunray: your husband is a criminal”

So I guess your answer to how we should treat the huge number of criminals in the Texas system would be to not allow them to keep in touch with the family and friends who are silly enough to still care about them. Let them swelter and die of heat prostration in the summers when there are runs of 100 degree plus weather and freeze in the winters with inadequate or no heat. They don't deserve adequate medical care or basic nutrition because after all, they are criminals. They don't deserve the love of parents, spouses or children, because they are criminals. Once they became criminals, no matter what the crime, they ceased to be human beings.

If that's your justification for treating inmates worse than we allow people to treat their dogs, it's a pretty shabby and inhumane one.

NoMoreNoloContendere said...

23 comments re: this topic so far. Thank you to those that tried to instill some common sense into a few that seemed to lack it.

The thing to take away from the authors' piece is that, Texas familes & the loved ones of the wrongfully & rightfully convicted, will now pay in cash for what they (inmates) used to pay for in days in jail(time served ring a bell). Q.What are we gonna do about it? A. Blog about it, that's right. Blog Blog Blog

To:GFB, Great piece. Bummer that you & a few had to resort to explaining the context of it to the shallow ones. Consider a follow up piece or two to keep us followers in the loop.

To: Anonymous (three of you in row) & of course you all look the same to me. Let's see now. To 05:46Thank you teacher may I have another? To: 05:51 What can I say that you haven't heard before? To: 05:58 Your welcome, & it would be great if you would consider adding something to your name so we can tell you all apart. Just a thought. To: the spell checkers out there,While I really do thank you "I'm gonna give you a workout." Start strechen

NoMoreNoloContendere said...

One of you Anons has been a busy lil bugger head. Started around 09:27 am, came back around 3:19 pm, and stayed for a 03:23 then climaxed at exactly 07:08. Long day at the office and picked it back up at the house, now that's dedication folks.
I'll assign you the monniker Anonymous #1 to keep you seperated from the pack. Bla.

Hey did anyone here about the blogger that misspelled some words on GFB? It's on 20/20 right now. Some anonymous good samaritan stepped up and they say he'll live to blog about it. Just messen witcha teach.

To: Sunray, probably a good idea not to play with one of the Anons anymore. He/she is baiting you & probably jackin off to it.

If we ignore them they might take their toys & go away. If you get in direct pissing matches they'll win. Don't reply to it if it's from an Anonymous or if they sound like crackheads. *Just send small amounts to the trust fund 22.00 every two weeks should work.

Mark#1 said...

Of course, we are assuming good faith on the part of the state actors and that they really think rehabilitation is a laudable goal. On the other hand, "silly rabbit, it's always been about the money."

Why is it that these "lawn order" types don't understand that when you treat a man like a dog, you shouldn't be surprised when he acts like one."

As for making "prison a tuffer place" to reduce crime, who here thinks that offenders conduct a cost-benefit analysis before possessing that crack rock or burglarizing a car? Second along that track, how's that working for ya? I don't believe that anyone truly believes that prisons in Texas are "nice." I do believe that the "lawn order" types have run out of things to say; and therefore must fall back on rote recitation to burnish their "tuff on crime" credentials and avoid facing the fact that they just don't really give a damn about other humans all that much.

Boyness said...

Only an idiot with NO knowledge of Texas prisons would suggest making them tougher. Most of these "pole barns" are in the middle of nowhere with the Texas sun blazing down on them and no AC. The housing areas of these units frequently exceed 95 degrees during the day. The windows don't open but some unit have huge fans to blow the hot air around.

Rick Perry can always say he's tough on crime but I would like to see his a$$ sit down in one of these housing units for just an hour some afternoon. CALL THE PARAMEDICS!!!! IDIOTS!

NoMoreNoloContendere said...

Correction it seems that 07:08 is not the same as 03:23. So that makes the climax out to be around 05:46, 05:51 or 05:58, honestly can't tell exactly.
Sorry bout that 07:08.
Wouldn't it be great if one of them used the (Latin anonymus) & one used the (Greek anonumos). I'm buggin out, too much Anonymous in one day isn't good for anyone. How do you spell C-ya?

Anonymous said...

I'm sick and tired of the complaints about air conditioning for prisoners.

Sure, we don't want them to die of the heat. But ask some of the old timers around here, it wasn't that long ago that the schools in Texas didn't have air conditioning!

So let the prisons get a little warm. (Within reason)

Anonymous said...

Ah, another vapid, melodramatic screed from Boyness.

You should watch "Locked Up Abroad" and see how inmates are treated in foreign prisons. Or read about how the Texas department of corrections used to be before Ruiz vs. Estelle and some of the other rulings that brought about change.

In the bird's eye view of history, the current state of Texas prisons is pretty good. If families want to send some money, fine, but the state should get its cut. Maybe prisoners will eat a little less junk food, maybe families will try a little harder to keep them from going to prison next time.

outlaws'princess said...

ok i have had just about enough of these people sayin that our loved ones are criminals. Big deal!!!!!! its your tax money that feeds them 3 meals a day, and have a place to sleep. you don't want that?? ZThen send mine home to me and i will CONTINUE to take care of him. He got a card in the mail from a county saying it was his responsibility to repay court costs. It said he had 10 days to contact them. I sent him the card and i called the number and was NOT polite about telling them that he was still incarcerated, so how was he suspose to pay it back. they told me that they didn't know he was still incarcerated. thanked me for calling, told me that thay will moniter the situation and hung up. I think its wrong for counties to rob the inmate trust fund. if they didn't get it way back when, then tough. I can't send mine money for what he needs, i don't have it. I have bills to pay just like everybody else.I support my husband, because i love him. I don't condone what he did, but i still love him and will support him. but for all the "anons" who don't have the guts to even put their monikers on this post, you are cowards.

I to have the same problem with the phone. All i have is a cell phone. I work alot, and a land line is just not feasable.

for charlie O> no one asked you to come here to texas. stay up north. when your wife gets thru paying her debt to texas, take her home and keep her there and ya'll won't have to worry about texas justice. Yes, i know about texas justice. I also know there are more than 2,000 felonies on the books.

uhh soronel, its not a brolierplate, its a hot pot. there is a difference. you can find a picture of it on the Texas department of criminal justice web site. Look under inmate trust fund or commisary items. its not for you to decide whether or not the commisary items are extra or not. and for sayin that sunnys husband is a criminal, is just rude. of course you are intitled to you own opinions, just keep them to your self.Until each and every one of you have spent ANY time in prison, you have no idea what it is like for the offenders. don't judge,lest ye be judged.

Anonymous said...

Dang I just saw that the state is only taking 10%... wow, big frickin deal!

I think the state could optimally take 35% at least.

Anonymous said...

Until each and every one of you have spent ANY time in prison, you have no idea what it is like for the offenders.

Exactly. I don't sleep where criminals sleep, I don't eat where they eat. I'm not the one who broke the law, they are.

sunray's wench said...

my husband is a criminal, yes. Do you see me deny that anywhere?

Thing is, his children are not criminals, neither is his grandson or his mother. But if any of them decide to send him money to pay for writing materials and stamps, you would happily take that money because those things were "extras". I suspect TDCJ feel a similar way (not on their payroll, are you?) because although they publicly state that they encourage inmates families to write often, they dont say anything about encouraging the inmates to reciprocate.

@Anon 10.26 ~ I have every sympathy for the guards who have to work in temps of over 100 degrees in their uniforms. Installing A/C in the units would help the guards - and they get little help from anywhere else.

Tougher prisons does not reduce offending. TX has had tough prisons for decades and offending has continued to increase. Other states have different prison systems, pay their guards more, pay inmates a small amount for the work they do, etc, and have less crime. But some people only believe what they want to.

Soronel Haetir said...

uhh soronel, its not a brolierplate, its a hot pot. there is a difference. you can find a picture of it on the Texas department of criminal justice web
--

By broilerplate I was refering to whatever terms the prisoner has to sign in order to have a commissary account at all. Most people don't bother actually reading the things they sign. I suspect that criminals are even worse than the average person in that area.

anon said...

IT IS THEFT BY STATE. The offenders should be allowed to work in the system and earn a wage, first of all to help support their families if they have one and after that pay any fines and costs they may have.
IT IS NOT THE FAMILIES RESPONSIBILITY TO DO THIS AND IT IS NOT RIGHT FOR THE STATE TO EXPECT THEM TO. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE FAMILIES NO LONGER SEND MONEY, THEN WHAT? IT IS ABSOLUTELY A STUPID IDEA. THESE FAMILIES DID NOT GIVE PERMISSION FOR THE STATE TO STEAL THEIR MONEY FROM THEIR LOVED ONE. WHO WILL SEE TO IT THAT THE MONIES GO WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO? THE COUNTY, THE STATE? HAH THAT IS A JOKE. I AM SURE THAT THESE FAMILIES ARE NOT WILLING TO LINE THE POCKETS OF ANY STATE OFFICIAL AND WE ALL KNOW IT IS ONLY ABOUT THE MONEY AND SOMEONE WILL BENIFIT ON A PERSONAL LEVEL. THESE PEOPLE MAKING THESE DECISIONS COULD CARE LESS ABOUT DOING WHAT IS RIGHT. It is time for the families of offenders to take a stand and let their anger be heard loudly. If you don't have a family member incarcerated then you have nothing intelligent to say about this issue and should just keep your uninformed opinion to yourself. FAMILIES OF OFFENDERS STAND UP FOR YOUR LOVED ONE AND DON'T LET THE STATE DO THIS TO YOUR FAMILY.

Charlie O said...

Outlaws Princess,

I agree with you that the anonymous "lawn order" posters are nothing but pure cowards. I've made that comment myself previously.

I will gladly stay "up north," as you request. But I'd like to point out that I started out in Texas. I lived in Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas off and on over a twenty year period. I've just found that there are other places with more livable climates, more agreeable (an intelligent) neighbors and much, much, much better government than Texas. You see, PA actually realizes there's a cost benefit to spending money on schools instead of building prisons. What a concept!

Charlie O said...

I've had time to digest all the comments from the all the "get tuff" and "lawn order" anonymous cowards that have left their thoughts here.

It must be quite special to live such a perfect life where you've never made a mistake, broke a rule, or strayed. One poster declared that inmates don't deserve the commissary or commissary funds because their "criminals." What the hell does that mean? People end up incarcerated for many different reasons. There are lots of crimes. What is a criminal? Grits has said many times that 10% of Texans have warrants for their arrest becuase they can't pay the draconian fees added to the driver license renewal. He has also alluded to the ominous oyster felonies. Are these folks criminals? Do they deserve to rot in a hot Texas prison?

I have a concealed weapons permit from my county in PA. Yet each time I drive into NJ or the District of Columbia, I commit a felony because I have a gun in my car. Does that make me a criminal deserving your wrath and disdain? Should I put away and cut off from my friends and families for that transgression? Having a gun in my car is legal in other places. I have no criminal intent. My only crime is the presence of the firearm.

I'll bet most of you "get tuff" Texas cowards claim to be christians. Go to church on Sunday and thump your bibles when you think it's prudent. Yet none of you have any capacity for for forgiveness or belief in redemption. That's because you only thump your bibles (or beat others over the head with them) instead of reading them. You mostly disgust me. It strengthens my resolve in being atheist.

Anonymous said...

None of you “tough on crime” types have would last a few hours in a TDC prison should you find yourself there. You easily could with over 2,000 felonies on the books . I have been on two of the toughest units . None are country clubs or even close to what you might think or want to believe they are . The basics should you provide them to a child would get you locked up for a child abuse felony in a 'nice comfy TDCJ hotel” as you believe them to be . if you provided them to children . There are a number of felonies for a prosecutor to choose from . Some can get you over 20 years !

I find that those who are quick to condemn usually have something themselves to hide . We see this on the news the most recent. The Holier than thou Governor of South Carolina sexual adventures in Argentina with the holier than thous getting caught doing everything they claim to be against . I understand one very vocal “victims advocate” has a interesting past that should be looked into .

Making prison living hell does not benefit any one .it might satisfy some ones desire for revenge or political ambitions. Releasing a person who has been abused for years with out any rehabilitation or skills then putting up every imaginable roadblock to staying out of prison is not going to reduce recidivism .or deter crime . If anything the opposite . Post Ruiz TDCJ is becoming very similar to Pre Ruiz TDC

Keeping in touch with family and other positive influences does reduce recidivism and does help reduce tensions in prison. So does having commissary . Phones and other incentives to behave well and do what is needed to stay out of prison on release .

Convicts were sentenced to prison not to be abused and subjected to inhumane conditions . The sentence is being removed from free society not put into a concentration camp or soviet style gulag .Your true colors are showing . The loved ones of offenders did not commit the crime the convict did.

Be careful before you judge you might one day be in the defendants chair . You can only hope some one will be merciful . None of you are prefect and never commit a crime , it is near impossible to live with out violating some law of some sort. In the real world it is called over criminalization .

Sunray that is true if BPP met their numbers this would be less of a issue .

Soronel

Tossing insults does not make you right. It is reactionary , usualy means you are wrong and do not have any valid points to make .

Anonymous said...

Well put Charlie O. Honestly, it really doesn't bother me what a few anons think. What does bother me is that my government seems so ready to embrace their philosophy and the seeming delight with which they pursue it.

"Up North" looks pretty good to me.

sunray's wench said...

Soronel Haetir said: "By broilerplate I was refering to whatever terms the prisoner has to sign in order to have a commissary account at all. Most people don't bother actually reading the things they sign. I suspect that criminals are even worse than the average person in that area."

To my knowledge, inmates do not have to "sign up" for their trust account (now there is something that might need renaming!), it is just in existance from the day they enter TDCJ or State jail - it goes with their ID #.

Why would criminals be "even worse than the average person" at reading the small print on things? Do you seriously think that prisons are only full of illiterate beings? Ever heard of white collar crime? Or do you think they are just stupid for getting caught?

At least I feel like we're accomplishing something here, even if it is to educate you about TDCJ.

@ Charlie O. ~ If only it were that simple to leave Texas to those who really like living there. Unfortunately, even with the Interstate Compact agreement, once you are in the system they dont want you to leave.

Anonymous said...

You guys keep missing the point, that this is only a 10% garnishment... So you want your loved one to have $20 a week? So now your loved one has $18 a week.

Is it really so outrageous that you should bear this burden? I think if the taxpayers are footing a huge bill, the inmates can do this much.

Boyness said...

Anonymous said...
Anonymous said...

Ah, another vapid, melodramatic screed from Boyness.

You should watch "Locked Up Abroad" and see how inmates are treated in foreign prisons. Or read about how the Texas department of corrections used to be before Ruiz vs. Estelle and some of the other rulings that brought about change.
------------------------

More Anonymous Trash! Cant let this stuff pass though. Texas is not a foreign country as much as many would like for it to be.

I dont care how prisons used to be before yada yada yada whatever, i care about NOW. How are they being treated today and tomorrow. I am not anti prison but I am a supporter of human rights and I will still be a supporter of human rights when any of you find yourself in a Texas prison. Think it can't happen? Just stumble onto any of this states felonies and we'll see ya there.

Anonymous said...

You are missing the point. It is not our responsibility. And how much is it costing the taxpayers to carry out this policy? What is the net gain other than to appear good to folks like you?

Soronel Haetir said...

Tossing insults does not make you right. It is reactionary , usualy means you are wrong and do not have any valid points to make .

--

I have read back through the entire post now and fail to see any insults I have posted. Could you please point to a specific example?

--
Why would criminals be "even worse than the average person" at reading the small print on things? Do you seriously think that prisons are only full of
illiterate beings?
--

On other threads people have complained about the huge education hurdles facing many inmates but even leaving that aside and assuming that every inmate is perfectly literate I would still tend to believe that criminals would have a greater tendency to ignore the agreements they sign. I come to this belief out of repeated findings that criminals tend not to pay attention to the things they do. That for most the only moment that matters is 'now' rather than past or future. I have also seen this tendency in reference to sentence length and rehab, that for most it really doesn't matter (that ignores incapacitation however.)

Soronel Haetir said...

I will however readily admit that I do not know whether inmates have to sign anything regarding trust accounts. If they don't I am somewhat surprised.

Anonymous said...

If it were the offender's money then I would say yes. It would serve some punitive affect. But this is just wrong.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect Soronel, there is vast sea of difference between knowledge and understanding. It is apparent that you are quite an intelligent person, however, your lack of understanding is profound.

Comments like - "Aren't commissary items extras? If that is actually the case then there is no need for the state to provide such access at all. The fact that providing such access help diffuse prison tensions is strictly a bonus, revenue should be the only goal." are a bit insulting.

These are not numbers on a statistical spreadsheet, these are people. Unless you have lived, breathed, smelled, and experienced the state of incarceration in the state of Texas then you really know very little. For the families of those incarcerated, we care more than just about the revenue.

I don't expect you to have the least bit of understanding or empathy for any of this. That's okay, we are pretty used to that. And believe me, I understand the need for my loved one to be accountable for his actions and pay whatever debt is owed.

But please, regard my loved one's life as worth something too. There was no victim regarding his crime. He is a lot of things but he would never treat anybody the way the prison system has treated him.

sunray's wench said...

Why is it that when people talk about "tax payers" they seem to be implying that inmate families do not fall into that socio-economic group?

A lot of inmates families pay their taxes, and are now being asked to pay twice over for the mistakes of their loved ones. Why not call a spade a shovel and admit that this is a tax on inmate families and be done with?

TDCJ is already falling short on the numbers it claimed would sign up for the new phone system. The legislators have failed to give the guards a decent payrise, given the extremely dangerous job they all do. It's just about the money.

Anonymous said...

Look, no matter what you've heard, the money does not belong to the family. It belongs to the inmate once it is put into the account.

That is why it is acceptable to garnish. So get over it, the inmates will pay a 10% gift tax. Meanwhile, an honest physician in this country will pay 35% marginal tax on his income.

Anonymous said...

If an honest physician is PAYING a 35 percent marginal tax on their income then they have been employing the wrong CPA and tax attorney.

Charlie O said...

Anon. 3:04

People like you make me seethe. Another anonymous coward. No one ever said it was the family's money. But it is still those people who work hard and scrape up what they can to provide for their incarcerated loved ones. And now that you've brought up the subject of physicians, do you know that Texas inmates have to pay to go to sick call? Where the hell do you think that money comes from? Their inmate account (if they have one). And don't even get me started on the crappy healthcare provided to Texas inmates.

And before you start your diarrhea about the oh, so poor taxpayers again, that could be greatly alleviated if the BPP would do their MO FO 'ing job, follow their own guidelines and start granting some parole. The taxpayers of Texas are responsible for the so-called justice and penal system in that state. They vote for politicians who have implemented these laws and practices and now you want to cry about them having to pay for it?????? EF U.

Anonymous said...

Charlie O, you are so right. It is the money earned by the families and not meant for the state or anyone else to be able to access for any reason except their loved one in prison.
Once again, if you don't have a loved one incarcerated keep your uninformed opinions to yourself.
Most of us wrapped up in this mess are sick and tired of your opinions and could care less about what any of you have to say.
Bottom line, it is our money and we are opposed to the counties, state, nazis or anybody taking it from any of our family members. My name is Cathy

Anonymous said...

Wow, I notice there is a lot of hysteria on the part of those who have incarcerated family members.

But guess what: no matter what you say, no matter how upset you are, there is going to be a debate on the best way to deal with crime in society. And it's best done by rational discourse, not through the online tantrums which Outlaw's Princess, Charlie O and Cathy have engaged in.

The same type of behavior exists on the other side: victims of crime and their families often try to shut down the argument with the kind of angry emotional appeals that you yourself engage it.

Those who have experience with crime and the criminal justice system have a valuable perspective to add. But if you try to shut people up there will be a backlash.

sunray's wench said...

@anon 12.44 ~ I dont think anyone really wants to stop a debate about the situation, but the hysteria as you put it comes from sheer frustration.

Nine times out of ten, the people who want to be "tuff on crime" are the exact same people who complain loudly that "their" tax dollars are being spent on inmates/prisons, and yet rarely offer any alternatives to the situation. That causes frustration in those who have the added perspective of seeing not only "their" tax dollars, but now also their own disposable income being swallowed by the state - a state that refuses to play by its own rules much of the time, and refuses to consider seriously any alternatives suggested by those living through the ordeal.

Counties do not work together to get criminal charges all tied up on an individual while they are in custody. It would not be too difficult for Counties to get data reports from the TDCJ inmates records to establish the capacity of an offender to repay any debts or perhaps offer them added time in prison instead.

Anonymous said...

Debate? I was not aware of any debate? Is TDCJ holding one on this issue and just forgot to inform anyone?

Those of you in the criminal justice system might have a valuable perspective to add but I haven't heard it. Mostly because it's difficult to hear anything coming from behind a very large condescending attitude.

I strongly suspect that this particular garnishment policy will garner little profit for the state or provide any punitive or rehabilitative effect for the inmate. But I tell you what it will do. It will further polarize the one group of people that truly have a vested interest in seeing that the mess of criminal justice succeeds for everybody.

TDC incorporates policy for one reason. Because they can. No debate. No explanation.

x4livin said...

The difference between a "criminal" and any other person in this world is that the criminal got caught or punished where others either got away with it. Anyone who says they have never broken the law is a liar.

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate but true, the majority of TDCJ personnel aren't taken seriously and are mistrusted. Same thing is happening with law enforcement and elected officials. Abuse of power as well as corruption are running rampant among many of the folks in charge. Then, there are the mistruths and lies they distribute to cover up the abuse and corruption. Texas fails to hold those in high places accountable. People are becoming frustrated. Taking money from an inmate's trust is just another example of abuse of power.

Anonymous said...

If anyone from the criminal justice community would like the take the time to offer an explanation of how this policy will -

1)Help the offender understand the importance of paying restitution.

2)Take something monetary of his away to serve as punishment for crime.

3)Offer the internal processing costs of each transaction so that we might know how much money ends up in the intended place. Including extra personal costs to process these payments at both ends.

I would like to hear a rational explanation of that or any other reasoning that drove the decision to enact this policy.

I'm not an unreasonable person and as one of the posters pointed out, perhaps there are other valuable ideas to be shared.

Texas Maverick said...

Soronel: Perhaps you may want to research a topic before commenting to give more validity to your position. Inmates trust accounts are automatically opened after they are processed. Policies and Procedures are available on the TDCJ website for families to review. Funds deposited become the property of inmates and if you make a deposit you can only confirm the receipt but not the balance in the fund. That is the private information of the inmate just like your checking account is your private info. How you would like the county to have the ability to deduct your property taxes at whatever time they choose from your checking without notice and without prior notice of the amount and no verification that the amount their records show was correct. In my opinion this is a poor piece of legislation and may have a chance of being overturned in court if appealed. Inmates are citizens with rights even though many of the comments here today seem to be forgetting that.

Anonymous said...

Texas Lawyer,

do you have an precedent to back this suspicion up? Or is this wishful thinking?

Anonymous said...

Which part? The part about inmates having rights too or that it is a poor piece of legislation? FO

Anonymous said...

To all of you who think this legislation is a good idea. Guess what? You will be the ones incurring more of the burden for helping all these "criminals" keep in touch with their families. Once the families stop sending money and the inmates are considered "indigent" they are allowed to request writing supplies that are supplied by TDCJ via your tax dollars! So now lets say you previously had 10 indigent inmates (hypothethical)needing indigent supplies (stamps, envelopes, paper) you will now have lets just say 20 requesting that because their families have stopped sending in money for the inmates to purchase themselves. So now that TDCJ will be using more money to supply more inmates writing material wonder where they will dig that money up from. Oh wait...tax payers! So along with TDCJ buying more writing supplies to hand out, they will also start to lose the $ gained on the interest that they get from from the inmate trust fund because their families stop sending in money. Well I hope that all the families of those incarcerated stop sending in money and have their loved ones just request their writing supplies from TDCJ. That will give all the "law-abiding citzens" something else to cry about because they will be helping to pay for these "criminals" to stay in touch with their families.

Anonymous said...

I spoke with my son over the weekend about the ruling. He and I agreed that we would deposit no more monies in his trust account and he would apply for indigent services. (medical, dental, stamps, etc.etc..) Hey, free works for me, and I will be more than happy for my tax dollars to be used for all those in prison.

Anonymous said...

Just sent a letter off to my husband telling him of the situation and asking if he would mind foregoing commissary for a while. Although, he owes nothing I'm sure he won't mind doing without. He believes in justice. Yep, let all those righteous taxpayers support his every need for a while.

Anonymous said...

01:53:00 06:57:00 and 06:57:00

We law abiding citizens don't cry too much. That kind of helpless, irresponsible attitude belongs the criminal kind.

The past twenty years have been a victory for law and order with crime down and incarceration rates going up. The tough on crime approach has worked. We are proud of the progress we have attained.

You may think you have a loophole, but I'm sure there is a legislator out there looking to cut indignant services too.

So tell your loved ones behind bars they better watch out. The cops and COs are coming down hard. And the honest citizen is always ready to Goetz you.

Anonymous said...

anon 657 there are no family members whining or crying about anything. I don't have a criminal mind. We are just stating facts. Yes our emotions may influence what we say, but when you are talking about sons and daughters we tend to get emotional. I don't know where you live that crime is down. We know incarceration rates are up. Woooohoooo more money for the state and private prison industry.

Anonymous said...

5:34 - No loophole. It's called constitutional rights. Even those in prison possess them and I'm afraid it is you that must pay. Ah.

And please don't worry about us or our loved ones suffering more at your hands. There is just not a lot more you can take from us. Ah, again.

Anonymous said...

3:15 WELL SPOKEN

Anonymous said...

We law abiding citizens don't cry too much. That kind of helpless, irresponsible attitude belongs the criminal kind.

The past twenty years have been a victory for law and order with crime down and incarceration rates going up. The tough on crime approach has worked. We are proud of the progress we have attained.

"You may think you have a loophole, but I'm sure there is a legislator out there looking to cut indignant services too.

So tell your loved ones behind bars they better watch out. The cops and COs are coming down hard. And the honest citizen is always ready to Goetz you."

No loophole, its their constitutional right.

I do not understand your logic for how the past 20 years have been a victory for law and order with crime down and incarceration rates up. Surely you can figure out the logic that if crime is goind down the incarceration rates should also or they should at least taper off. If we continue to have record number of people being incarcerated for crimes than the crimes indeed have NOT gone down.

Well I hope you aren't too upset about funding more of the inmates' indigent care that was funded by the inmate's loved ones. Now you get to fund more of it!! Thank your legislators!!

Anonymous said...

I do not understand your logic for how the past 20 years have been a victory for law and order with crime down and incarceration rates up. Surely you can figure out the logic that if crime is goind down the incarceration rates should also or they should at least taper off. If we continue to have record number of people being incarcerated for crimes than the crimes indeed have NOT gone down.

Crime is down because many of the bad guys are behind bars and many would be bad guys are being deterred by long sentences.

To be sure, the general deterrence effect might sometimes cause arrest rates to go down as crime goes down.

However, the incapacitation effect has a strictly positive correlation.

Anonymous said...

Jail is a money making business. The jails get money for each inmate they houses, so why do they need to make extra money for phone calls and commissary. The inmates don't earn money to pay for phone calls or commissary, there family member have to come out of there pockets to pay for these things. So that bull about the cost for phone and commissary go to cost for this and that in the prison is a lie. Someone is lining there pockets big time and it should stop. To the person who said that they are in prison and don't have a right to any special treatments. Phone calls and commissary isn't special treatment and should not be a money making thing for people who are looking to get rich off of other misfortune. I hope they change this problem as soon as possible. Never judge because you never know if one day you might have to walk in someone else shoes.

lyssab123 said...

has anyone heard of them taking 50% of everything put on their books? is this legal?