Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Striking prisoners, investigating police shootings, the terrible truth about Texas incarceration rates, and other stories

Here are several odds and ends this morning that merit readers' attention:

Texas prisoner strike?
"Inspired by a growing wave of prison strikes in Alabama, Georgia, and California," Texas prisoners reportedly will engage in work stoppages next week as part of a strike action being organized by the International Workers of the World, according to a press release Grits received today. See here and here for details. One would expect units with striking prisoners to end up on lockdown, but who knows what will happen? Their stated demands include:
1. Meaningful application of work time credits
2. Repeal $100 medical copay
3. Right to an attorney on habeas claims
4. Independent oversight of TDCJ
5. Humane living conditions (including air conditioning, better medical care, etc.)
Oversight and prosecutorial misconduct
See a new report from the national Innocence Project on oversight and prosecutorial misconduct. Here's initial coverage from the Houston Chronicle and more from ProPublica.

Keeping up with Anthony Graves
Speaking of prosecutorial misconduct and those who've fought against it, see a good profile of exoneree Anthony Graves and his various activities through his personal foundation now that he's a free man.. 

Investigating police-shootings investigations in Houston 
The Houston Press published a feature diving deep into Houston PD disciplinary processes and the investigation that takes place when a police officer shoots someone. Grits also recently ran across a similarly themed investigative story out of New Mexico looking at police shooting protocols.

Doubling down on hype
The governor may send state troopers in Dallas to respond to media hype a reported crime wave. I thought we had to send all the troopers to the border because of the non-existent crime wave down there?

Video exonerated defendant, but no consequences for false accusers
See coverage from an episode in Caldwell County where sheriff's deputies allegedly beat a guy up and accused him of assaulting an officer, only to find home security video contradicted all their claims.
Reported Ars Technica, which has links to many of the key documents, "The video (which contains no audio) has not led to the officers being disciplined or charged for allegedly falsifying police reports."

Tasers and police interrogations
A new study out of Drexel University is titled "Taser shock disrupts brain function, has implications for police interrogations."

Senators consider mental health and jails
The Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee today has a hearing 1t 1:30 p.m. on an interim charge directing them to "evaluate the current guidelines and practices in county and municipal jails relating to the health, welfare, and safety of those in custody. Review law enforcement and correctional officer training, with emphasis on mental health and de-escalation. Study the effectiveness of existing oversight mechanisms to enforce jail standards; making recommendations for policies and procedures if needed. Examine the current mental health and substance use treatment services and medical resources offered in county, municipal, and state correctional facilities." You can watch it here. Mark Haslett has a preview of the hearing on KETR-public radio.

Bail reform roundup
Several items related to bail reform deserve attention:
Truly, Texas' incarceration rate greater than Russia, Iran
As I've said many times, Grits really can't stand the Politifact model - their only valid results IMO are "True" and "Pants on Fire." All the gradations in between are matters of (often uninformed) opinion. Take this one, for example. Austin state rep candidate Gina Hinojosa said in a mailer that “Texas has a higher incarceration rate than Russia or Iran. It’s time to reverse course.” Politifact sought out sources that confirmed the rates used for both countries, and Texas' rate, but added "mostly" because the data sources weren't exactly apples to apples (as though data across prison systems ever is!). This is an absurd analysis. She could call ten experts on the topic and they'd all give the same answer. That statement was simply "True"; no source the reporter found contradicted it in the least.

Implanting false memories of crimes committed?
According to a tech blog I follow, "Scientists are discovering how to erase and implant memories." Indeed, "A recent study had a 70% success rate of implanting false memories into their subject’s minds to lead them to believe that they had committed a crime." See the study here. Whether memories can be implanted has been debated since some of the earliest research on eyewitness identification.


From Dallas said...

Thank-you Scott for your reportage. I have shared it with several USA prison reform groups on Facebook. We need to spread the word on how totally insane and unconstitutional the system truly is. Have a good day my friend.

ladywpaint said...

I do like this report, thank you.

The Old Skool Preacher said...

I give a hardy "Amen" to GFB for its reporting.

Unknown said...

That "$100 copay", to be clear, is assessed on people whose jobs pay less than fifty cents an hour.

Air conditioning is a safety issue, not a comfort issue. Sue Ellen Allen, in "The Slumber Party From Hell", describes a facility in another hot state where it was just taken for granted that multiple inmates would have seizures from heat exposure every summer.

sunray's wench said...

@ Unknown
TDCJ inmates don't get paid anything at all. It's a tax on their families rather than on the inmates.

The design of some of the units would make it very difficult to fit them with A/C - but those could be candidates for closure if the inmates numbers continue to fall.

Presumptive parole is the most important thing on thier list, closely followed by legal representation for Habeus relief. I'm not sure this is the way to achieve either of them though.

From Dallas said...
Please, read.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ is slowly killing inmates with bad food: