Monday, December 15, 2014

I Can't Breathe, South Texas style, and other stories

Here's a browser clearing compendium of items  that merit Grits readers' attention even though I haven't had time to adumbrate them fully.

Wrong solution to culturally inept 'surge' participants
Is it true, as Valley legislators allege, that "Too many of the Department of Public Safety troopers assigned to the South Texas border region do not understand the local Hispanic culture and are unable to speak Spanish"? Perhaps. I'll even go with, "Probably." To me, though, the solution is to scale back the politicized, pointless, metric-free, "surge," not to build a damn training center down there to make it permanent! 

Lawsuit alleges sexual assault by employee of county jail contractor
A lawsuit by a former inmate alleges she was sexually assaulted by an employee of Community Education Centers, a private prison firm out of New Jersey that operates McLennan County's local jail, reported the Waco Tribune Herald. Jail privatization has already been a financial albatross for the county, but, if true, these allegations and the process of proving them in court might turn public opinion against the county's jail contracts more viscerally. 

I Can't Breathe, South Texas style
Eighteen students and staff members at a Raymondville ISD middle school were given medical treatment after they were exposed to tear gas during a training exercise at the neighboring Willacy County State Jail, reported KWTX TV.

New Tarrant DA will create Conviction Integrity Unit
The new Tarrant County DA Sharen Wilson will create a Conviction Integrity Unit. The fellow hired to run it, Larry Moore, said correctly that the lower number of exonerations in Tarrant may be because they “didn’t have the pattern of abuse you found in Dallas," as local officials have insisted. "But frankly, all the evidence was destroyed here, and Dallas kept it,” he added, which regular Grits readers know more accurately gets to the heart of the matter.

Priced to go
Outgoing Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tom Price spoke to the Austin Statesman's Chuck Lindell about his last-minute declaration that he opposes the death penalty after sending hundreds of men and women to death. (Price's views have migrated greatly from those of the judge who was warned by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2001 for a campaign message touting that he had "no sympathy" for the criminal.) Regrettably, Lindell's conversation with the judge did not stray from Price's new-found death penalty views to plumb other topics like ideological splits on the court, relationships among judges following the Charles Dean Hood debacle, or his reasons for switching sides in Ex Parte Robbins I and II. I understand Texas Monthly will publish an interview with outgoing CCA Judge Cathy Cochran early next year, though don't expect her to break decorum and speak about the insider baseball stuff.

Reddy: Pretrial detention of low-risk offenders 'counterproductive for public safety'
Vikrant Reddy of the Texas Public Policy Foundation authored an editorial in the Houston Chronicle explaining how "pretrial incarceration of those who do not pose a high risk of committing a serious crime is counterproductive for public safety." He argues for "developing pretrial risk assessment instruments that can be used to make sound determinations about who needs to be in jail and who does not."

Read more here:

Mass imprisonment and public health
I'd missed a NY Times editorial from last month regarding harms to public health from mass incarceration. Here's a notable excerpt from its opening:
When public health authorities talk about an epidemic, they are referring to a disease that can spread rapidly throughout a population, like the flu or tuberculosis.

But researchers are increasingly finding the term useful in understanding another destructive, and distinctly American, phenomenon — mass incarceration. This four-decade binge poses one of the greatest public health challenges of modern times, concludes a new report released last week by the Vera Institute of Justice.

For many obvious reasons, people in prison are among the unhealthiest members of society. Most come from impoverished communities where chronic and infectious diseases, drug abuse and other physical and mental stressors are present at much higher rates than in the general population. Health care in those communities also tends to be poor or nonexistent.

The experience of being locked up — which often involves dangerous overcrowding and inconsistent or inadequate health care — exacerbates these problems, or creates new ones. Worse, the criminal justice system has to absorb more of the mentally ill and the addicted. The collapse of institutional psychiatric care and the surge of punitive drug laws have sent millions of people to prison, where they rarely if ever get the care they need. Severe mental illness is two to four times as common in prison as on the outside, while more than two-thirds of inmates have a substance abuse problem, compared with about 9 percent of the general public.

Common prison-management tactics can also turn even relatively healthy inmates against themselves. Studies have found that people held in solitary confinement are up to seven times more likely than other inmates to harm themselves or attempt suicide.

The report also highlights the “contagious” health effects of incarceration on the already unstable communities most of the 700,000 inmates released each year will return to. When swaths of young, mostly minority men are put behind bars, families are ripped apart, children grow up fatherless, and poverty and homelessness increase. Today 2.7 million children have a parent in prison, which increases their own risk of incarceration down the road.

If this epidemic is going to be stopped, the report finds, public health and criminal justice systems must communicate effectively with one another.


Simran said...

Grits, check out HB 507 which decriminalizes MARIJUANA in the State of Texas! Rep. Moody filed the bill today, in which would create a civil penalty for one ounce of marijuana or less. It is not a Class C Misdemeanor, you cannot be arrested for it, and the fine is only $100.

Btw, what is an email I can get to you faster?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Simran, it's

I was actually at the presser announcing it. More after the initial MSM round comes out.

Anonymous said...

Another fine example of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) preparing the little kids of Raymondville to become inmates in one of their prisons or even worse an officer making minimum wage. An officer working for CCA is drowning all the time with the substandard wages CCA pays. TDCJ should take over this facility. This community has suffered long enough with the Geo Group and now CCA managing this prison.

Anonymous said...

"mass incarceration"

Since smash-and-grab or grab-and-run is our new way of "shopping" these days, penalties don't work. Almost all the grab-and-run artists get to "shop" free so this is a new way of life that has no legal consequences. What is the consequence for our society as we redefine shopping?

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits,
re: - "The new Tarrant County DA Sharen Wilson will create a Conviction Integrity Unit. The fellow hired to run it, Larry Moore..."

In the complimentary linked piece, he eludes to the fact that the Unit will be concentrating on "actual innocence'. And, IMHO, since lawyers will be running it, all devoid of anyone having any actual experience in the 'Fields' hailing from the wronged community (both types), it is dead on arrival.

With that in mind, I implore the Tarrant County taxpayers to ask their elected DA, to reconsider wasting the taxpayers funds on another 'FAKE' so-called Conviction Integrity Unit. We the people of Texas, simply don't need another 'County' being in charge of investigating itself, after-the-fact. We have already been there, done that folks. Plus, weren't we lead to believe that this is one of the roles of the Texas Board of Pardons & Paroles -'Clemency' Section in regards to Actual Innocence and the Full Pardon addressing it? Those in the know may pause to roll around on the floor.

Remember the FAKE-ASS Lycos Unit of days gone bye, latter inherited by the person that inherited the Office that simply let it remain FAKE? Remember the the FAKE-ASS Watkins Unit? What makes them FAKE is the fact that they openly discriminated in black & white (Rules placed on Applicants' are right there on their websites for the reading) basing one's qualifications for post conviction assistance considerations on: *the TYPE of evidence, *the YEAR of conviction, the name of the person or organization assisting the Applicant & *whether or not the Applicant convicted him or her self via accepting advice to avoid or stop a jury trial in progress in order to Plea Bargain (aka: participated in the - Texas TapOut). With the most bazaar being that the Applicant must have exhausted all direct appeals. Say what, you read it right, basically telling the majority to - fuck-off & go away. They learned or simply copied & pasted this discriminatory tactic from the Innocence Project of Texas. Don't believe it check out the Rules on the website. I've asked everyone to consider explaining Why? for years and years and years. Nothing but silence.

In closing, while the truth hurts some, it exposes others of their untruthfulness. If you wish to right 'all' wrongs shown to be vetted as being openly committed by those with various forms of self imposed immunity in courts of law (including the judge's chambers) resulting in false arrests being allowed to morph into false convictions, you must be All Inclusive, from the jump. To place ridiculous Rules & Qualifications, you address only those that interest you, as it discriminates AND that's wrong. Let's hope that this Unit dies in the womb or that it is actually: open, transparent & all inclusive. *Better off, why not create a damn Unit that Vetts 'All' arrests 'prior' to charges being sought from the DA's INTAKE and 'All' convictions obtained via the Texas TapOut. As a Preventative - Placing multiple angled cameras to document (Bradyfy) 'All' of the Live Show-Up procedures would assist in preventing some crime victims from being recruited by rogue un-detectives to participate in making the original description(s) fit the unlucky bastard found to be "Positively Identified" while not having anything in common with the description provided and sworn to be truthful in the police incident report and from the witness stand.


Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes, and we need a bill turned law that actually allows and demands that those found to have lied in a Police Incident Report and again in Court be arrested and indicted on aggravated perjury charges. Being unqualified for any form of plea bargain would send a strong message to actual crime victims to report only the facts as you can recall them. Its hoped that it would discourage the scumbags hell bent on getting revenge from anyone in cuffs.

Those filing false reports that go on to pick out the wrong person that results in the wrong person being charged and sentenced, should be held accountable along with those charged with investigating and vetting.

To throw upwards of $80K per year plus, plus, only at those lucky enough to be chosen by Units or Projects and disregard the individuals shown to be responsible is another wrong in need of reformation, or the whole thing is left to those doing the Riggin to Rig-On.

Thanks (again)