In the meantime, to clear my browser tabs before taking off later today to purchase some celebratory scotch of at least the same age as the blog, here are several items which merit Grits readers' attention
Texas tough on sandwich theft
Texas' three-strikes law predates California's more famous version and recently allowed a man to be sentenced to life in prison for stealing a sandwich.
DWI offenders are forgotten nonviolent prisoners
Outside of drug and property offenses, DWI recidivists are one of the largest cohorts of nonviolent prisoners in the Texas prison system. The Houston Chronicle reported on the habit of the Montgomery County DA to seek life sentences for repeat DWI offenders.
The Sheriff and the spooks
Crazy story out of Hudspeth County about Sheriff Arvin West. Just read it.
Harris jail mops up mental health clients
A story on Baylor psychiatry students working at the Harris County Jail included these data on mental-health care given to jail inmates there:
In Harris County, between 25 percent and 35 percent of the 9,400 jail inmates receives psychotropic medications, counseling or other services. Hickman told legislators last month his mental health staff made on average 24,664 contacts with patients every month over the last year.Reconsidering banishment
At the same time, community services have been squeezed. After Harris County weathered massive cuts in state funding in 2003, the Harris Center shuttered more than half of its seven outpatient clinics, said Sylvia Muzquiz-Drummond, medical director of the center's mental health division.
Many Harris County residents who lost services at those facilities began turning up in the criminal justice system, with the jail seeing such an increase in inmates with mental health issues that forced the center to boost staffing at the jail from two to 15 full-time psychiatrist positions.
The Legislature has been unwilling to confront the question, but courts are turning against sex-offender residency restriction statutes, reports the Marshall Project's Maurice Chammah at the Texas Observer. Our pal Mary Sue Molnar, whose amazing efforts at Texas Voices for Reason and Justice have pushed this issue back into the spotlight in Texas, makes a featured appearance.
Murder rates in context
Murder rates have been in the news lately, with Ferguson-effect types overhyping recent increases and some reformers seeking to pretend the increases weren't real. I thought this item at fivethirtyeight.com cast the situation correctly, which is to say, based on the data, not ideologically based hype. Their conclusion: "Murder is more prevalent than it was two years ago and about as prevalent as it was seven or eight years ago, but the current decade is still safer than any other decade on record."