Thursday, October 08, 2015

Texas courts illegally jailing motorists for unpaid tickets, and other stories

Here are several more items which merit Grits readers attention even if I don't have time this week to turn them into independent blog posts:
  • Check out a top-notch story from BuzzFeed, of all places, with the teaser, "People in Texas get thrown behind bars just because they can’t afford their traffic tickets. That’s a disaster for people who are already struggling. It’s also completely against the law." The article delivers as promised, read it.
  • See video of an hour-long Texas Tribune festival panel on criminal justice. About half of it was spent on culture-war questions - gun control and the death penalty - and about half on subjects where there was largely bipartisan agreement.
  • Grits disputes the premise behind this headline: How does one measure whether there's a "shortage" of police when crime is down? Maybe there's just the right number and they need to be diverted from wasteful activities like responding to false home burglar alarms.
  • Is it okay for a judge to tell petitioners to F*%# off if they do it in Italian slang? The Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a warning to a Fort Worth JP for such behavior.
  • I'd forgotten that, in addition to the new state data published on police shootings, the Houston PD earlier this year launched a database which includes historical data.
  • See coverage of the disgraced Hill County Sheriff and two of his top managers who were convicted of tampering with government documents, claiming officers received training when they had not. 
  • Contract negotiations between San Antonio and the union broke down because the city refused to drop a lawsuit challenging an "evergreen" clause that keeps the old terms going for ten years after their meet-and-confer contract ends. Good for Mayor Taylor. That's a terrible, antidemocratic provision they should never have agreed to in the first place. It pointlessly ties the city's hands.


john said...

Cops systematically take non-jailable Class C Misdemeanor "offenders" to jail, ignoring their lawful Magistrate Hearing rights. All the intimidation and threats and waste of time has LONG been proven to get those attacked to acquiesce and pay up.
I's because we are not allowed to resist. It's tyranny, and I don't care if cops would be too scared to take the jobs.
Our least-resistive weapon is to film them, always--for they are corrupt. They yell at people to put away their phones/cameras, or put out your cigarette, please, Sandra. Because cops can do anything they want, UP FRONT, and your broke & beaten butt can TRY to fight back, in court---THEY all get paid.
Your very motto indicates the problem: you may beat the rap in court--though you'll pay heavily; but you cannot beat the ride/jailing/taser/beating/shooting/hanging.
The government is crooked, politicians often sickos, and those in power ignoring their oaths as they race for more wealth and power. There is still and always has been a cop war on citizens & other residents. As it increased, cops got caught in the middle; We The Poor People are still losing, severely. Even when cops disagree with the "enforcement" of politically-correct abuse, they will "just follow orders," to get paid.
The problem is, government and law enforcement was not SUPPOSED to be a profitable business--it was to protect and serve. E.G., that's why there's no citation/ticket written "quota"--it's merely an evolved verbal policy, outside the law. And while citizens may NOT resist--under threat of being hunted down; cops are given buzz words for paid administrative leave, for when they get caught.
When those in power are crooked, there is no oversight of the ones learning to cheat, lie & steal faster and more efficiently. Those in power were supposed to serve. Cops must choose whether to be a neighbor citizen--serve & protect, or some kind of a warlord willing henchman. I suspect the latter pays better.

Anonymous said...

John, most go to jail for warrants, not for non-jailable class c offenses, but every one of those defendants get their hearing within the requisite time allowed barring some out of the ordinary problem. But the premise of the linked articles and the all too regular comments by Grits that the system ever runs a "profit" is laughable.

Sure, those who run a private prison may run a profit or those associated vendors that provide meals or related services may make money but the system never has and never will. That includes when the prisons ran farms and includes some of the cheap labor they sell to private enterprises now. The very best they could claim was deferring some of the costs of incarceration just as cities that heavily ticket traffic violators, the sole exception to this might possibly be those tiny towns that let state licensed cops to work as volunteers to keep their certification. Even then, when you add up the cost of judges, clerks, the paid positions, and everything else, it is sketchy to suggest they run a profit.

Bigger cities like El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, or Dallas, don't come close to profiting when all costs are factored in so that narrative, and anyone that employs it, is crazy. Some employ Hollywood styled accounting where they discard most of the costs as "sunk" but any sane cost analysis shows enforcement costs more than it makes, every law passed coming with a price. In places like Houston that outside studies suggest is thousands of officers shy of what is needed, the number of cops needed is based on their own situation; laws they choose to enforce, policies for what needs a report, how they arrest people, etc. To lower the need for state agents, they would have to stop doing something expected of them, enforcing drug laws, answering burglar alarms, or free traffic control for billionaire sport team owners on game days.

The thing is, cities and counties want the revenue from burglar alarm permits or fines tied to false alarms while voters demand police answer alarm calls from ADT or other companies not even stationed in the state, companies unable to verify if the weather is bad or a family pet set off the alarm. As long as the majority of the population wants drug users arrested, a department is going to be obligated to follow that path by possibly well meaning, if ill informed city policy makers.

Anonymous said...

Texas is a national embarrassment. I am so glad I am not Texan.