Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Event: 'Texas prison system at a crossroads'

I was invited to speak on Friday at an event at the UT-Austin School of Social Work sponsored by the group Grassroots Leadership, so I thought I'd share the details here in cases any readers want to attend:
WHAT: The Texas prison system is at a crossroads: Where do we go from here? Please join us for a TEACH-IN with experts on the issue.
WHEN: Friday, November 19th at 12:00 pm

WHERE: UT School of Social Work, Utopia Theatre

WHY: UT MSSW students are working on a research project in collaboration with Grassroots Leadership to recommend a private for-profit Texas prison facility for closure. The teach-in will offer an interactive opportunity to hear about and discuss current issues within the prison system, including conditions of confinement with Erica Surprenant of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition; exoneration of the wrongfully accused with Scott Henson, Grits for Breakfast blogger; and MSW student, formerly incarcerated person, and prison reform activist Jorge Antonio Renaud, addressing the lack of moral support, training, or practice in Texas prisons. Last but not least, hear why now is a unique time to get involved!

OPTIONAL: Stay for a post-teach-in film screening beginning at approximately 1:30. Peace Productions has re-released WAR ON THE FAMILY: Mothers in Prison and the Children They Leave Behind. The documentary reveals in painstaking detail the destructive impact of incarcerating poor women of color for non-violent drug offenses. Along with the reflections of various advocates, the voices of these women paint a devastating picture of the far-reaching effects imprisonment has not only on the incarcerated women, but also on their children left behind.
The UT School of Social Work is located at 1925 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, Texas 78712. Off-campus garage parking is available at the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Trinity St. The Utopia Theatre is located just inside the main entrance to the left.


Anonymous said...

What a waste of time, you know damn well the money machine locomotive that is TDCJ will never close a for profit prison..Get real

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The White Queen in Alice in Wonderland boasted that she sometimes believed six impossible things before breakfast. Perhaps the same could be said about me believing in the possibility of prison closures.

But look at it this way - the developers, road builders, doctors, universities, etc. who benefit from other government spending will also be lobbying to keep their ox from being gored, and those interests are more powerful than those pushing for more prison spending. The programs those special interests want are also "money machine locomotives" and when the Lege starts budget cutting in earnest, it wouldn't surprise me if they had more clout than the folks backing TDCJ funding.

We'll see soon enough, but can't never could.

Hook Em Horns said...

Scott, I applaud your efforts and recognize your intelligence on this issue. The problem is as ingrained in all of us as cowboys on the frontier.

To fundamentally change TDCJ and how Texas looks at prisons, you have to change the politics in Austin and from the looks of things earlier this month, that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Prison Doc said...

Grits, Hookem and others have been following these issues longer than I have but it seems to me that in the upcoming legislature, economic reality may be of more importance tha "Austin Politics".

Then again, perhaps the money and politics are one and the same.

Anonymous said...

How 'bout a red hot poker through the eardrum while your at it.

Hook Em Horns said...

Prison Doc makes a good point. Another way of looking at it is Texas lawmakers could use the economic downturn to reverse direction in this prison-crazed state.

The problem is a political mantra, bought and paid for by lobbyists and others who worked hard to convince us that to be "tough on crime" we needed the worlds biggest prison system.

We were lied to, plain and simple, over and over again.

Prison Doc said...

But it isn't just the political mantra and the politicians, it is the majority of the voters in this center-right state. Since most people have never had an up close and personal encounter with the criminal justice system of any state, they can't possibly know how craven, corrupt and dishonest parts of it are.

It is frustrating. As a right-of-center-right voter myself most folks I know still feel that locking up and throwing the key away is the best solution.

Anonymous said...

"As a right-of-center-right voter myself most folks I know still feel that locking up and throwing the key away is the best solution."

It's like I hate knowing what I feel we need.

Hook Em Horns said...

Prison Doc, that's my point. Unless you smell the system up close, you really have no idea how bad it really is. Texas voters are not the problem per se', the lies they have been fed over and over again by those "supposedly" in the know is the problem.

This blind allegiance to these people we send to Austin to govern in our names is a disgrace on some issues. Those same legislators take comfort in knowing that most sheeple won't care because they will never grace a court docket.

It's easy for the law and order crowd to call us "soft on crime," "liberals," and worse. The bottom line is that reasonable people know the system is rife with tremendous problems but pointing this out never seems to get enough traction.


What we need is serious judicial reform. Reforms in law enforcement. What we have is truly rotten, it really is.

Don said...

I always get the "it's not a perfect system but it's the best in the world". My answer: "boy, the rest of the world must be terribly f'd up.

Anonymous said...

From a glass half empty perspective, Mr. Grits, I suspect that a bunch of lefty reformers will be speaking to a hall filled with other lefty reformers and you'll all leave thinking you've actually accomplished something. Don't get me wrong here. I'm all for it but having been involved in the criminal justice system for nearly forty years, I doubt we're in for any momentious changes derrived from this pep rally. Peace and love from the Hub City.


Anonymous said...

I hope you give us a report on this Scott.

Charles in Tulia

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There were about 75 people there, nothing momentous but a pretty good turnout. It was good to see Jorge Renaud there - he's an old college buddy of mine.

Plato, it's possible to put a cynical spin on anything. I've never worked on a reform project in Texas - including several which were ultimately enacted into law - where some old-timer didn't say on the front end that what we wanted was impossible and we were naive fools for trying. Better to sit on your duff and criticize others, advise the naysayers, so you don't run the risk of failing. That attitude is an excuse for either inaction, self-satisfaction, or both. As I often advise Hook 'em in these strings, can't never could.

Anonymous said...

wow grits, that's gonna leave a mark!