Friday, January 20, 2012

Change v. Tradition, lawyers v. journalists, and other perennial conflicts

Lots of tidbits this morning competing for Grits attention:

Travis DA race: Change v. Tradition
At the Austin Chronicle, Michael King has a pair of interviews with challenger Charlie Baird and incumbent Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in what shapes up to be a dandy of a Democratic primary race between two political and legal veterans during which, judging from these interviews, many seldom-discussed aspects of the justice system will be vetted.

APD crime lab whistleblower interviewed
In Austin, KVUE-TV has an interview with the whistleblower alleging violations at the APD crime lab.

Video: Littlefield, Texas: 'Meet town bankrupted by private prisons."

Liberty County is considering un-privatizing their jail and letting the Sheriff run it. The facility is currently run by Community Education Centers.

It's the checkpoints, stupid
No surprise to Grits readers, but the Texas Tribune reports that most contraband crossing into Texas from Mexico comes in at the checkpoints, not through the empty regions in between, which is one of many reasons this blog always opposed a border wall as misdirected enforcement.

Senate Criminal Justice interim charges
Interim charges (pdf) for the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee include studies of money laundering, the Crime Victims Compensation fund, the bail bond industry, solitary confinement (ad seg) at TDCJ, prescription drug abuse, and school discipline.

Senate Homeland Security charges
Interim charges (pdf) for the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee of interest to Grits' topic areas include the effect of drug trafficking and cartel violence on the economy, 911 staffing, limitations of using national guard for border security, the anticipated impact of the Panama Canal expansion,  oversized vehicle enforcement (as it relates to preventing road damage), and pursuing toll scofflaws.

Okie prosecutors seek probation profits
In Oklahoma, prosecutors have begun taking on probation supervision duties for low-risk offenders, the Wall Street Journal reports, with an eye toward a new revenue source from offender fees. But critics wonder exactly how much supervising is going on.

Lawyers v. Journalists, innocence edition
Unless you've been on the inside of such fights - and Grits has occasionally found himself on both sides, over the years, as well as in the middle of such feuds - it's difficult to grasp the good-faith conflicts that arise thanks to the differing roles of journalists and lawyers. This story from the ABA Journal about innocence project work at Northwestern University captures some of those conflicts better than most depictions.


Anonymous said...

GFB! Great collection of news pieces on prison enterprise. Very enlightening.

Interesting that prison industry is lobbying to take over the whole state and county incarceration in FLorida. AND that Florida is the second largest prison population BEHIND TEXAS. I think you can safely assume that TEXAS is being lobbied just as hard if not harder.

A Texas PO said...

Wow, the critiques about Oklahoma's DA Supervision sound just like the complaints about Texas' probation fees. Sounds like the Okies and their Lege have created a huge liability and the potential for a lawsuit if a high-risk offender, on what is essentially pre-trial diversion, goes off and commits a violent crime. I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about how this program in OK works, but I've never seen a prosecutor in any state who had enough time to sit down and meet with an offender one-on-one. And unless they have DA probation officers, the staggering number of offenders under supervision surely indicate that no one is being supervised at all. Cha-ching?

Anonymous said...

@ A Texas PO

I would imagine it works something like this...

OK DA discovered that they can contract with a private provider to provide "something" and the DA receives a portion of the offender generated revenue into their budgets. Everyone is happy because no one is sitting in the jail running up costs to taxpayers, court dockets aren't clogged, and Prosecutors are cutting a fat hog in the ass twice.
Just curious where public safety weighs in?

Sounds to me like the OK criminal justice system can be downsized, just throw out Judges, Defense attorneys, Clerks go to "Prosecutor Kings" who can circumvent due process and throw all all notions of innocent until proven guilty.
OK, OK, so maybe thats a little overboard.

Don said...

Scott, on the Littlefield prison, I agree with the guy about what is saying, about GEO and private prisons in general. But the video is misleading and false. 1. Geo had nothing to do with the prison getting built in the first place; they had no stake. The city leaders did it on the basis of a promised TYC contract. And it operated under TYC for a time. Then TYC pulled the contract, for various reasons. Geo never owned the facility. Plus, the city was doing ok when it was occupied. Geo lost the last contract it had, with Idaho, because it wasn't living up to the contract, but I wouldn't say it was Geo that cost them 10 million. They were contractors. Geo didn't lobby anybody to get this facility built. The city leaders of the time are the ones, and the only ones, responsible for the prison being built. I agree with the video speaker, however that it was neither wanted nor needed.

Anonymous said...

union grip over corrections has created enormous costs and forced massive change in california. privatizaation option keeps a good check and balance for taxpayers on gov't and union controlled departments.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"union grip over corrections has created enormous costs"

Not really a problem here, amigo!

We have the opposite problem: The union is weak and prison jobs pay so poorly that turnover is astronomical and they can barely keep folks.

Anonymous said...

This is something The Senate Criminal Justice Committee should look into. How can two officers at the Crain Unit have sexual relations with inmates and there is no arrest record to be found? One inmate is supposedly at the Reception Center pregnant and five inmates are being treated for gonorrhea on this unit. The inmates were severely punished for this. Punish the victims when the Justice Department and the state of Texas say’s there is no such thing as consensual sex in confinement. Sure they could have said no but everyone knows you cannot say no to an officer in prison. So we punish the victims once again. How many people are sitting in prison in Texas behind the “Laws of Parties” a Texas state statue? Why is it the people not running this prison are not being charged under the “Laws of Parties” for helping to facilitate these criminal felon acts.

Anonymous said...

. I heard an interesting story from a family member whose love one is on the Crain Unit. It seems the Asst. Warden came into the dorms back in late December and told the inmates that she own the day room, dorms and could take the television away from them and close the day room completely because SHE paid for them and she owned them. She told them she pays for the uniforms they wear also while yelling out them and using profanity to them. Now if the inmates had did this they would have been thrown in the hole and forgotten about. So I guess the state takes money out of her pay check every month to cover the costs of uniform, recreation and utility bills. Now as a tax payer whose does pay property taxes and actually pays for these costs I take offense to all of this. I like many family members and friends were charged $100 this year for medical and the medical on this unit is still substandard. Those televisions and recreational day rooms are paid for from the commissary money we the actual tax payers send our love ones. As far as I know this Warden does not even pay property taxes because she lives in Free State housing. The state of Texas and the tax payers owns that unit and everything associated with the costs to house those inmates and the tuff on crime mess we buy into every year because of the property taxes we pay. See this is a problem when you have a system of unchecked power and the people in charge are confused enough to think that they actually owns state property and this leads to the corruption and misuse of the same properties that are all too common in TDCJ and especially this unit. So I hope the state starts to deduct monies from her pay check now since she owns the actually prison and all of its property. It is funny how the people in prison are punished if they violate the people running the prisons human rights but the people running the prisons have free reign to abuse and violate the human rights of the inmates.