Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Busy Day For Criminal Justice

Good Morning Everyone,

It’s Ana Yáñez-Correa again, and as I gear up for a busy morning in this rainy weather, I just wanted to keep readers apprised of a couple of important hearings today:

Texas Judicial Council the Office of Court Administration (OCA) will present its Legislative Appropriations Request for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 to the Budget, Planning and Policy Division of the Governor's Office and to the Legislative Budget Board. The Hearing will take place from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm in the Capitol Extension, Room E2.028. I’ll be there presenting testimony focused mainly on funding related to indigent defense. This LAR will reduce the baseline budget for OCA by 5%, critically impacting the efficacy of key programs and, among other things, requiring the agency to reduce grant funding to counties for indigent defense. Although TCJC is concerned about the negative implications that budget cuts will have on OCA’s ability to fully realize its mission, our testimony focuses on the portions of the LAR pertaining to indigent defense, as the right to counsel is mandated by both the state and national constitutions. To view OCI's LAR, please click here.

UPDATE: This meeting has been canceled for today.

Below are our recommendations from the testimony. To view our testimony in full, please click here.


Our policy-makers must ensure that, despite our current budget shortfall, the momentum gained by the tremendous work of the Task Force and our counties is protected and strengthened. This is even more imperative as the state continues its efforts to ensure safer communities.

Ø Fully Restore the 5% Budget Cut

TCJC strongly urges the full restoration of the 5% budget cut ($1.5 million) to support the Task Force. The 5% reduction would cut allocations to already-underfunded programs, in turn severely burdening Texas counties. Indeed, since 2001, the Task Force has helped develop award-winning and innovative programs, which have provided thousands more people with appointed counsel. Restoring funding would promote the continued development, maintenance, and expansion of good programs that help fulfill a constitutional duty, minimize the burden borne by the counties, and increase confidence in Texas’ justice system.

Ø Provide Additional Help to Counties

In light of the many improvements to indigent defense since the passage of FDA, policy-makers must seriously consider any requests for additional funding proposed by the Task Force, even if incremental, to assist counties in maintaining well-run public defender offices and other successful indigent defense programs. Again, Texas does not provide financial assistance to counties from its General Review: that funding is solely derived from fees. It is the state’s responsibility to Texans to ensure that their right to counsel is protected at all cost, regardless of their income.

Ø Solutions to the Budget Cuts

Instead of harmful budgetary cuts to critical programs, the Legislature must take advantage of the Rainy Day Fund, which could provide over $9 billion for the 2012-2013 state budget. Additionally, policy-makers must maximize the use of available federal funding, including any additional stimulus aid or new matching funds made available by health care reform. Finally, the Legislature must create new sources of revenue that are equitable and can grow with the need for public services, including cost savings through the elimination of unproductive tax breaks.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee, chaired by Senator John Whitmire, is also holding a hearing this morning at 10:00 AM in room E1.016 of the State Capitol. The Committee will meet to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charges, both of which should be of interest to Grits readers:

Interim Charge 4: Study and make recommendations related to municipal jails and other detention facilities that operate without state agency oversight. Identify the number of such facilities and the population detained, as well as best practices for municipal jails. Make recommendations to improve services and consider options for oversight of facilities by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Interim Charge 6: Study and make recommendations to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of testing done in Texas forensic laboratories, including DNA and blood/alcohol testing. Assess and make recommendations for improving the capacity of Texas criminal laboratories to process evidence, identify ways to reduce the backlog of DNA evidence processing, identify ways to encourage qualified applicants for crime lab jobs, ensure adequate training for new crime lab technicians, ensure the availability of efficient crime lab processing to all regions of the state, and determine the impact of additional collection requirements on the capacity of Texas crime labs to process evidence. Consider the costs and benefits of creating a statewide crime lab.

If you aren’t able to make it to the hearing, you can listen to the hearing live here.

I hope you all had a restful holiday weekend and are ready for a busy day in criminal justice!


Anonymous said...

Some folks are a bit soured on increasing government spending. We spent over a trillion dollars on the stimulus package and what do we have to show for it?

Anonymous said...

They need to look at the hygenic aspects of the prisons! My God, my husband has told me about the bugs all over the food and their Dishwashing machine is broken, so the trays after the 3rd set of offenders due into meals are greasy and dirty-- they are asking for a pandemic of Hepatitis or Strep B? This issue needs to be addressed too, along with the substandard of the food for our offenders. Just my opinion, but I hope it can also be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Put some money own his books so he can go to the commissary.

Anonymous said...

Many of these people are glad to be behind bars to get free food, medical care and allow the state to care for them. Mr 'O's" improvement of the econoy.

Anonymous said...

I actually tend to agree with 10:12. I think the state should cut prison spending to pay for needed improvements and not just grow spending constantly.

Cutting the TFID's funding, though, makes no sense because they're funding public defender startups and that saves counties money. We need to cut where it doesn't push even greater costs onto taxpayers at different levels of government.

11:50's comments, of course, are pure rubbish.

Anonymous said...

0126: Your ignorance of inmates backgrounds is apparent. Until you educate yourself, refrain from more ignorant comments.

Anonymous said...

Right, 3:54, that's why inmates all beg the parole board not to release them. Idiota.

Anonymous said...

Say what you will Inmates have it 100% better than homeless people do.

Anonymous said...

Washington Post
July 24, 2010
The latest forecast from the White House budget office shows the deficit rising to $1.47 trillion this year, forcing the government to borrow 41 cents of every dollar it spends.

Anonymous said...

Say what YOU will, 6:01 (and clearly you say whatever stupid thing pops into your head), but most homeless people would rather remain homeless than go to prison which is why when they're prosecuted they fight their cases. It's idiotic and ill-informed to fantasize most people are "glad" to be behind bars.

If you think prisons are such a great favor to these folks, surely you won't mind if prisons are the first budget cutsmade next year?

Anonymous said...

Stupidity is having cancer, Aids, or some other aliment going hungry and being homeless when you can go to prison have medical, 3 meals a day, a roof over you head, and free medication. At 1 unit they have nurses in the housing area 24 hours 7 days a week PAs and Dr. either there or on call 24 7 all the inmate has to do is hit their call button for medical help. Food and medication brought to your room if you are unable to go to the dinning area.

'Stupid is as stupid does' said...

Actually, 9:38, stupidity is choosing to send so many people to prison then complaining about the cost. If you don't like it, tell your legislators to reduce sentence lengths and close prisons.

Anonymous said...

I guess you wouldn't mind having a rapist or child molester living next door to you. I'm for locking the predators up and throwing away to key, there is too many hug a thugs out there that forget about the victims. I have compassion for the victims and the inmates family but not the inmate.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said.... I have compassion for the victims and the inmates family but not the inmate.

9/12/2010 01:28:00 PM
I'll bet a million dollars you don't have any compassion for the inmate's family. Liar!

Anonymous said...

When I see the inmates children or mothers crying when leaving visitation it is not hard to have compassion for them. I've been working in corrections for 25 years and yes I have a heart for the families. It really makes me wonder why some inmates keep coming back to TDCJ when they have good families out there that love them.

Anonymous said...

"...inmates keep coming back to TDCJ when they have good families out there that love them."

I guess somebody forces them to victimize folks when they are released.

Others say its their attitude of entitlement that keeps them from doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

By a show of hands, how many of you think this hero will stop by and check on his baby mammas when he is released? Maybe mow a lawn or two.

Now, how many think he will only have time to check on some fresh stuff?

Anonymous said...

You can do "throw away the key" or you can do "no new taxes." You can't do both. Pick.

Anonymous said...

You need both some are a lost cause while others can do their time get out and be productive.