Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Criminal-justice items among TX House interim charges

Looking through the interim charges (pdf) for Texas House Committees (i.e., the questions the Speaker of the House has formally asked committee chairman to examine in between the state's biennial sessions), here are the ones I identified as potentially interesting from a criminal justice perspective:

 For reasons made clear in this recent Grits post, this subject may delve more than expected into criminal justice topics: "Study existing financing mechanisms and delivery methods for long-term services and supports in the Texas Medicaid program. Consider best practices, expansion of consumer-directed models, and successful programs in other states. Make recommendations to simplify and streamline existing programs and to provide services in a more cost-effective manner to a greater number of eligible individuals while ensuring an appropriate level of services for those with significant needs."

Appropriations will also cross into the criminal justice arena when they "Assess the current infrastructure and funding mechanisms for mental health services in both rural and urban areas throughout the state. Study innovative local programs that could be expanded, as well as successful delivery and financial models in other states. Make recommendations to expand access and improve services through increased efficiency, competition, and transparency."

And they'll formally revisit prison health financing in the wake of devolving negotiations between TDCJ and UTMB: "Monitor the administration of the Correctional Managed Health Care system. Examine the implementation of reforms passed during the 82nd Legislative Session, including the contracts between the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and participating entities under Rider 55 to ensure the expenses incurred match the appropriated amounts."

In a joint charge with the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, Appropriations will "Monitor the Texas Department of Public Safety's implementation of the driver's license improvement plan and the use of the funds appropriated to the department for such purposes by the 82nd Legislature" and "Evaluate the feasibility of privatization with the intent to minimize wait times for Texans."

Border and Intergovernmental Affairs
In a joint charge with the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, the committee will investigate "whether existing provisions adequately address security and efficiency concerns for steamship agencies and land ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border," and "Evaluate whether the state and the federal government have provided sufficient manpower, infrastructure, and technology to personnel in the border region."

Also portending a interesting hearing: "Examine the extent of interstate coordination concerning border security and intelligence sharing and determine whether any changes to state law are needed to enhance such coordination and cooperation."

This committee will have a big juvenile focus in the interim, overseeing the creation of the new juvenile justice department and entertaining notable, juvenile related charges including to, "Study ways to reduce the number of youth referred to the juvenile justice system. Consider the availability of mental health services, diversion and early intervention programs, and other prevention methods." The committee will also "Study and make recommendations about issues related to the certification of juveniles as adults.

On the adult side, the Corrections Committee has been charged with taking a prolonged look at parole: "Review current parole supervision strategies to ensure that resources are being used efficiently to maximize the state's need for public safety and rehabilitation."

County Affairs
This committee has a potentially far-reaching charge to "Conduct a general study of issues facing county jails. The study should include innovative ways to address overcrowding, the impact homelessness has on the county jail population, and recommendations for handling inmates undergoing detoxification and withdrawal from drugs and alcohol." That charge could go almost anywhere.

Criminal Jurisprudence
Shannon Edmonds said it was inevitable. Interim charge number one for this committee is to study the feasibility of so-called "Caylee's Law." "Study and make recommendations for criminal penalties for the failure of a parent or guardian to report a missing child or the death of a child." As Grits reported in July after attending the prosecutor association's post-legislative briefing, "According to Edmonds the law is unnecessary in Texas. There are at least seven crimes on the books here, he said, with which Anthony could be charged besides murder, including tampering with physical evidence - a second degree felony. Even though it's unnecessary, Edmonds declared 'I guarantee you' the Lege will pass Caylee's Law in 2013. He thinks they simply won't be able to help themselves." He may be right.

One hearing that should be interesting in the wake of passage of SB 122 this session will  be when the committee studies and makes recommendations "regarding the current procedures used in the testing of DNA evidence in Texas. Include a review of the feasibility of certifying additional DNA testing centers." Michael Morton, Hank Skinner, and other names familiar to Grits readers will crop up in that discussion, I'm guessing.

The committee will also broadly examine issues related to sentencing and the mentally ill: "Review the current sentencing practices for defendants with mental illnesses and make recommendations. Study practices in other states," and "[c]ompare recent incarceration trends between those who have mental illnesses and those who do not."

Culture, Recreation and Tourism
The best chance for new seafood-related felonies in 2013 may come from interim recommendations by this committee which includes among its interim charges a call to "Evaluate strategies to control known existing invasive aquatic species, including species commonly referred to as giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta), water hyacinths (family Pontederiaceae), and zebra mussels (family Dreissenidae)." There are presently 11 oyster-related felonies, and if they do one for mussels IMO it should count.

Homeland Security and Public Safety
In addition to the joint committee charges listed above, this committee will "Examine the role of law enforcement personnel assigned to school district campuses and postsecondary education campuses and determine whether any changes to laws concerning the enforcement of safety and discipline are necessary. Determine whether additional training of law enforcement personnel assigned to school district and secondary education campuses is necessary."

Public Education
This committee's main criminal-justice related charge is to "Review and make recommendations on the effectiveness of Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEPs) and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (JJAEPs) in reducing students' involvement in further disciplinary infractions. Determine the appropriate role of disciplinary alternative placements in promoting education achievement and how technology could be used to supplement education services. Consider appropriate placements in DAEPs or JJAEPs and consistent funding models for those programs. Consider options for counties without a JJAEP or inefficiently few placements in a JJAEP. Identify positive behavioral models that promote a learning environment for teachers to appropriately instruct while addressing any behavioral issues and enforcing student discipline."

Relatedly, the committee will "Review methods and best practices in Texas and other states to encourage more parental and community involvement in the education of Texas children."

State Affairs
This committee, in a joint effort with the Committee on Government Efficiency and Reform, will "Examine areas of potential privatization of state services in an effort to achieve a higher level of service and greater efficiency for Texas taxpayers."

This committee will "Examine the benefits and financial costs associated with modernizing 911 call centers with the newest technology to connect dispatchers with callers using mobile means of communication in the fastest and most accurate manner possible during a time of emergency."


Anonymous said...

Juvenile Justice and the "front-end" loaded system we weere all promised is about to be come a huge failure before it ever gets off the ground.

It seems Ms. Townsand has met just the right person, and the head of the much troubled agency that needed to be abolished is the front runner to head the new agency. TYC is still to this day ripe with scandal, all being under reported if reported at all. Facility problems are being moved from facility to facility to stay a step ahead of the publics view. All of this to make it appear all is well, its not! In fact any elected person who cared to make an unannounced visit at any of the facilites still in the TYC system would be shocked.
Whats worse is what juvenile offenders are learning or not learning! Juvenile with broken jaws and other injuries, kids covering other kids with prison tattoos, the list goes on and on while downtown Ms. Townsand talks of a culture change, knowing that by her silence and cover-up she remains the leader of that same culture.

Anonymous said...

TYC current administrative staff should under no circumstances should have a role in the new TJJD. All top TYC agency administrators work towards promoting their self interests at the expense of youth and staff. Same song - 25th verse!

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me, tell me you are kidding me!

We have in all honesty done nothing really different, except for kept stuff out of the headlines. Almost everything we say we do is on paper only. I swear to anyone that is listening ask any city, town or county, they will tell you the kids sent here come back as bad as ever and in most cases worse. But on paper they look good, on paper they had counseling, on paper the kept their level, its all a successful paper trail.

After working here for over 20 years I can say its never been worse than now. Before we were at least trying with the kid, now its show what we did on paper, dodnt worry about the kid!

A bunch of were staying with the hope that new leadership had to be around the corner.

And these guys are giving the captain of the Titanic another ship. Wow!

Anonymous said...

All you need to do is look at the current state of affairs at TYC, if they kept the current leadership in place they are or would be the most incompetent board of directors ever place over an agency.
Conextions is a failed treatment program. Stop listening to the administrators, talk to the staff doing the work, JCO's. Look at the numbers of assaults, buying behvaior does not work. How many snicker bars can you give a kid before they get tired of them. Implementation is not the issue, lack of conseqeunces is the issue.

Anonymous said...

We all know that the interim studies dont mean a whole lot to our lawmakers, i.e. last years study of the sex offender registry. They make recommendations and our lawmakers ignore them.

Anonymous said...

The most recent TYC "what the hell were you thinking" moment...psychiatrist Walter Quijano!

So once again after the fact Ms. Townsand is terminating his contract. How in the world did he get a contract in the first place. I mean one of the burning issues has been the serious lack of mental health services in TYC and to answer that probelm with contracting with this person.

Note to Ms. Townsand if you notice a lack of good medical care dont go find the next Jack Kevorkian!

Someone has strange pictures of the governor or knows what was on the other day!

Anonymous said...

I understand we are in the age of being "politically correct" but has anyone actually checked the prison racial stats? Looks like Dr. Quijano is being persecuted for speaking the truth.