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."
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.