Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roundup: Ugly spectacles, alternative solutions

While I'm focused today on work someone is actually paying me for, here are several items that merit Grits readers' attention:

Failure to disclose exculpatory evidence caused another wrongful conviction
In Dallas, a fellow named Larry Sims is about to be released after 25 years in prison after it was revealed that prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory biological evidence. DNA test results show the victim lied about parts of her story, and the district court is expected to find that no reasonable jury would convict him based on the newly tested evidence. The Dallas DA isn't yet calling this an "exoneration," but it's certainly a wrongful conviction.

Law vs. Science: E pur si muove!
At the Houston Chronicle, Rick Casey has a column about the Forensic Science Commission's coming request for an Attorney General's opinion on whether it has jurisdiction to investigate the Todd Willingham case and other older incidents of forensic negligence or misconduct. (See earlier Grits coverage.) Noting that the jurisdictional concerns came from the City of Corsicana and the state fire marshal (he said he suspects that's the case but Chairman John Bradley actually said as much at the meeting), Casey declares that "we are watching an ugly spectacle of two law enforcement agencies, unable to marshal science on their side, aggressively fighting against science with lawyers." (MORE: From the Innocence Blog.)

Cuts to mental health would burden local jails
An analysis by Harris County of the proposed Texas House budget found that "cuts would transfer the burden onto a county government already contemplating hundreds of layoffs." The biggest unfunded mandates would come from cuts to state mental health services.

Legislating from the bench
Liberty and Justice for Y'all has a writeup of a recent case in which "the Court of Criminal Appeals donned their legislative hats and signed a new bill into law." Blogger B.W. Barnett agrees with the end result, but notes that "of course, you would always prefer that a legislature be the body handing down the law." 

Fourth time's a charm?
Smith County is considering yet another jail bond proposal which could go before voters in May. This would be the fourth plebiscite in as many years promoting jail expansion, which voters keep rejecting. (At least they're suggesting a much smaller facility than some of the grandiose proposals in the past.) If at first you don't succeed, I suppose ...

Jobs for ex-offenders reduce prison costs
The New York Times published an interesting story this week on various states helping ex-offenders get jobs to reduce recidivism and prison populations. In Michigan, "Through vigorous job placement programs and prudent use of parole, state officials say they have cut the prison population by 7,500, or about 15 percent, over the last four years, yielding more than $200 million in annual savings. Michigan spends $56 million a year on various re-entry programs, including substance abuse treatment and job training." Notably, both the Texas House and Senate budgets would eliminate Project RIO, which is the only state program we have (whether or not it functions as well as one might like) aimed at connecting ex-offenders with employment. These results argue the program should be expanded instead of deleted if the goal is to save money.

How to cut 30% from prison health costs
In California, legislators are gagging over high prison health costs, but the federal conservator appointed to address the problem says medical parole is the best, quickest solution: "You let me unload 1,500 inmates, and I'll give you a 30% drop in [prison healthcare] costs," he told legislators this week. Fifteen-hundred inmates amounts to less than 1% of the total California prison population.

Court program teaching art to graff writers
In Brooklyn, a juvenile court judge teamed up with an ex-tagger to create an art program for juvenile probationers convicted of graffiti crimes. The youth are actually taught professional-level art skills and the judge hangs examples of their artwork around his courtroom. Excellent idea! There are a lot of jobs and economic growth to be had in the creative sector, and I'd rather see the small handful of juvie graff writers who're actually caught channeled in that direction instead of focusing on punishment for punishment's sake.

Feds may cut reentry, reduce local asset forfeiture shares to save money
Budget cutters at the US Department of Justice have suggested reducing federal funds for reentry available under the Second Chance Act. They're also suggesting "Increasing the amount of time deducted from prison terms for good behavior," as well as "Sharing less of the proceeds from property confiscated from criminals with state and local authorities."


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Michelle Moore on her eleventh exoneration. She has done yeoman's work getting innocent people released with very little help and little credit.

Anonymous said...


Have you heard any talk of expanding the use of the PEP program in place of RIO?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's the first I've heard of it, 11:31.

Anonymous said...

If at first you don't succeed piss the voters off more...that's our motto in Smith County. Oh some of the things I've just heard the edges of, I'd list a few but frankly I'm afraid of Smith County "justice", I might commit "suicide". BTW one of the original commissioners who strongly supported the jail works for the Sheriffs Dept now after his constituents removed him. Funny that. ;)

PS: I hope my IP blocker is working.

Anonymous said...

I hope your IP blocker is working too. If you live in Grayson County they will get you!!!!!

Anonymous said...

IP blockers.. that does not save you from having the computer swept for traces tying you to an article. Proxy servers do not either.

best thing to do it COMMENT AT HOME!

as for the the exonerated Dallas man. I guess the embarrassment has become too much that the DA won't even use the word any longer.

My question is, if this woman lied on her report, when can we expect a check from her for the funds she got from the crime victims fund. Also, when will she be reporting to prison to serve time for what SHE did to this man? Personally, I think getting hit by a bus is too good for her and I hope that she dies suffering at the natural end of her life.

kaptinemo said...

"Sharing less of the proceeds from property confiscated from criminals with state and local authorities."

Yepper. "No honor among thieves"...and it's showing, now that things are getting tighter.

Civil Forfeiture was always a bad idea, and now we're going to see the former beneficiaries screech and claw at each other in fighting over the spoils of their theft...instead of performing their duties without regard for that 'reward'. While the taxpayer becomes ever angrier about government waste and excesses.