Exporting First Amendment fight
Folks convicted of the ruled-unconstitutional offense of online solicitation of a minor are starting to be released, with seven cut loose from prison last week. Mark Bennett, the Houston attorney who's been attacking these statutes on First Amendment grounds, offered a new year's resolution to take the fight to other states.
Dissatisfied with TDCJ
I'd not looked at results from TDCJ's 2014 "customer satisfaction survey" which interviewed county officials and offender advocate groups. Half of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the agency's services. The main complaints were:
- the customer not believing the agency will address a complaint
- the customer not receiving the information they were looking for in a timely manner
- the customer not receiving clear explanation about services available
Documenting danger: 2015 an historically safe year for cops
Given that 2015 was one of the safest years for police in the United States since the 19th century, perhaps we can scale back the "dangerous year" for police rhetoric. The 39 U.S. officers killed feloniously were tragedies, as were the 90+ unarmed people shot by cops. In truth, whether you're talking about good cops or bad, the fatal flaw in these 2015 debates was generalization based on anecdote. That's one of the reasons Grits is excited about Amanda Woog compiling data from Texas police shooting reports newly mandated last year by the Legislature: It'll be nice to have actual data on the topic.
Improving solitary confinement standards
AP had a story over the weekend on the national push to reform solitary confinement, which in Texas prisons is known as administrative segregation (or more commonly, just "ad seg"). The American Correctional Association recently released proposed new standards "from mandatory health care visits and mental illness treatment for inmates in segregation to more time out of cells for recreation and education." ACA "will take testimony on new, more lenient solitary standards at its national conference in New Orleans beginning Friday, with final ratification expected by August." MORE: In a report from September, the Association of State Correctional Administrators called prolonged isolation a "grave problem." See a new set of essays from the Yale Law Journal in response. AND MORE: From the Marshall Project, "How to get out of solitary confinement one step at a time." RELATED: Next month there will be two showings in Austin of a nationally recognized play related to solitary confinement - Mariposa and the Saint - hosted by the Prison Justice League. One will be at Salvage Vanguard Theater, the other at Parker Lane Methodist Church. See a review from the New Yorker.
The other refugees
Grits found the debates over letting Syrian refugees into Texas disingenuous and off-point given the very real problem we face - and which America is handling badly - related to Central American refugees fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Despite all the self-deportation rhetoric one hears from the nativist faction, making life tougher for these folks won't stop the flow of people coming here: “It’s hard to out-ugly what is happening in Central America, no matter what we do to them,” noted one observer.