Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Push to scale back pretrial detention on deck for 2017

Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune published a good summary of State Sen. John Whitmire's keynote speech at a University of Houston law school symposium last week on "Police, Jails, and Vulnerable People." The Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman declared, “My highest priority next year [at the Legislature] is going to be pretrial release.” Explained Ramsey, "What’s he talking about? Three-quarters of the people in jail in Houston right now haven’t been tried; he and others think a lot of them should be at home. Or working." For Ramsey:
One thing that stuck out was the number of people who are in jail waiting for something to happen. Some are dangerous and belong in custody. But many are there because the system isn’t set up to send them home until it’s time for their trials.

Money is a problem. In the Sandra Bland case that served as a sort of anchor for the conference, a woman was found hanged in a jail, and her death was ruled a suicide. But she arguably shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. She couldn’t get out because her bail was set too high for her to pay her way out. In Bland’s case, that was a $5,000 bond; it would have cost her about $500 to get out, but she could not get the money.

That might not sound like enough money to create an obstacle. It is, but policymakers often have to have it pointed out to them. “I have a hard time telling my colleagues what $1,000 is,” Whitmire said. He said he had recently turned down a request from lobbyists for the bail bond industry, telling them he doesn’t want to meet with them until they’re ready to talk about reforms.
Whitmire brashly declared he didn't know whether pretrial reform could pass, but "I wouldn't bet against me." Me either!

At the same event, which your correspondent attended, Ramsey moderated a panel with two Rs and two Ds - Sen. Konni Burton and Rep. James White on the R side, Reps Gene Wu and Garnet Coleman for the Ds - but even during the discussion he seemed surprised to find "relatively few disagreements." All four indicated that moderate, business-oriented Republicans were the main barrier to more significant criminal-justice reform: Most Democrats and movement conservatives are already on board, they agreed.


Anonymous said...

Texas Republicans are penny-wise and dollar-foolish, among other more egregiously deplorable attributes. We don't have real Democrats in Texas either, as most TX Democrats would be considerate, in other states, moderate republicans. So, we don't really have a two-party systems here, but the Democrats seem to have a more lenient attitude toward reforms - this story is a testament to this.

The obstacles that most Republicans (and, I have to admit, some conservative Democrats too) have posed to meaningful reforms is appalling: from mental health, to education, to criminal justice, they have proven to be shortsighted, bigoted, selfish, callous, and often espousing or condoning inhumane practices and ideas - often, not for ideological reasons, but for selfish interests.

Corruption, greed and collusion, characterizes the whole legal system, regardless of party affiliation. All this in a State which considers itself diverse in nature yes, but also founded by and run on Christian principles. The incongruency is clearly visible.

"Ai posteri l'ardua sentenza!" (Posterity shall be the judge of them).
In the meanwhile, the disinfranchised Texans, immigrants, and visitors like Ms Bland, run the risk of getting caught in an unholy web of greed, corruption, lies, deceipt, and power-hungry schemes.

We need change.

Anonymous said...

Fresh from the press:


WASHINGTON (AP) — A widening Republican rift over revamping the nation's criminal justice system is dashing hopes for overhaul in the final year of President Barack Obama's tenure despite strong bipartisan support and a concerted effort by the second-ranking GOP senator.

As one of the issue's top advocates in Congress, John Cornyn of Texas faces reluctance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, opposition from home-state Senate colleague and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and reservations from several GOP senators, who expressed their concerns at a closed-door meeting last week.

As opposition has grown, Cornyn is lowering expectations for election-year success.

"I am hopeful, but I don't think it's critical we do it this year," the three-term senator said in an interview with The Associated Press a day after the private Republican caucus meeting. "I have been involved in a lot of fights around here that have taken us years to get things done. And ultimately the question is, can you get it done at some point."

The bipartisan legislation, passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, would give judges discretion to give lesser sentences than federal mandatory minimums, eliminating mandatory life sentences for three-time, nonviolent drug offenders. It also would create programs to help prisoners successfully re-enter society. The idea is to make the sentencing system fairer, reduce recidivism and contain rising prison costs.

Disparate voices — from Obama and the American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Koch Industries — have said the system is broken and backed the Senate bill. In 1980, the federal prison population was less than 25,000. Today, it is more than 200,000.

But some Republicans are worried that the reduction in mandatory minimums would lead to the release of violent felons — a criticism Cornyn and other supporters dispute.

Cruz has said lawmakers should expect to be held accountable and the justice system doesn't want "additional leniency for violent criminals."

There's more consensus on prison overhaul, which would provide incentives for low-risk offenders to prepare for a life on the outside. Some Republicans have suggested moving that part of the bill separately.

Cornyn says it's important to keep the legislation together, as it was negotiated by a strong bipartisan coalition. Democrats backing the bill wanted to get rid of some of the mandatory minimums completely, but compromised on the reductions.

Still, "If at some point we can't get the bill done, I think we'll have to take another look at that," he said of splitting it ..."

DEWEY said...

Re Anonymous 7:14: I have been involved in a lot of fights around here that have taken us years to get things done. And ultimately the question is, can you get it done at some point." --- As a side light, how long did it take to get telephones (at an exorbitant rate) for prisoners in TDC ?

Anonymous said...

Taxpayer funded Pretrial services is a FAILED system...
The Sandra Bland case while tragic, is a bad example of a typical situation of someone going to jail and I believe there is more to the story. We should all agree most people that go to jail for any reason, unpaid tickets or a criminal act, should have some accountability (Bail or collateral) otherwise there is NO incentive for them to go to court, stop speeding or committing criminal acts. They must have some skin in the game for them to follow Laws, otherwise, why give tickets or arrest people, simply smack their hand and let them go...

Anonymous said...

And, not one word regarding those arrested while on Probation automatically held without bail as being the majority of humans sitting in jail up to 120 +/- days at a time, with multiple Read-for-Trial notices filed, only to result in -

being advised by hired & appointed lawyers (that may or may not actually be qualified to represent criminal clients in felony jury trials) to avoid or stop a jury trial in progress in order to Take-the-Plea. If they plan along to TapOut Probationers, why not just sale 'em out during the first consultation? Because - it's all about the money and time equals more money, more money.

*The PT Services will not receive a request to perform a service (background check to be used during closing arguments' in efforts to sway jurors to ignore the possibility of innocence due to a previous case resulting in Probation) for the 95% +/- of all Defendants' due to everyone knowing good & well they are not disposed of via a jury verdict. Why? Because the CDL will advise the Defendant against it because it will allow the ADA to use one's past against them, despite guilt or innocence.

Rigged and Ignored = Bidness as usual. Yes, a few good ones are doing the right thing but allowing themselves to be directed to take a look at repairing the other side of the rotten fence. I know, we have to start somewhere.... Should I win the Lotto, I'm going get a tattoo on my forehead & buy me a seat and give the Foundation their money back. You don't need money to un-rig a game.

Gunny Thompson said...

This continued facade is nothing less than a False Flag. Bail Bonding Lobbyists will assure that nothing positive will get done

Speaking of My Dear Sister, Sandra Bland, I have not been able to determine whether she was afforded representation at her initial court appearance 2) was there a Myranda warning giving, and 3) was she afforded the opportunity to file a felony assault and terrorism threat complaint against the Jack-Booted, Goose-Stepping Brown Shirt, KKK Racist Terrorist.

Anonymous said...

No such thing as a Myranda warning. Your ignorance of the law is only surpassed by your ignorance of the rules on capitalization.