Saturday, April 14, 2018

Populist backlash snuffs Pflugerville Tuff-on-Crime resolution

A majority of the Pflugerville City Council were listed as co-sponsors of a resolution this week declaring that violent crime was on the rise and calling for prosecutors and the courts to seek maximum penalties in all cases for both violent offenders and drug possession. In the 1990s, one saw these regularly from all levels of government, with officials who had no formal role in the justice system trying to jump on the Tuff-on-Crime bandwagon.

This time, though, the grandstanding maneuver back-fired.

Measure-Austin, a local police accountability group, put out the word among Pflugerville residents that their city council was about to do something regressive and foolish. And Just Liberty created a local email action alert that generated 74 constituent letters to the mayor. Community members showed up to oppose it and won a 5-0 vote against the resolution, which started with 3 of 5 council members as sponsors!

According to video posted on Twitter, one of the sponsoring council members moved to postpone the item indefinitely, to which the Mayor replied that he'd feel more comfortable if they postponed the item "eternal." The motion author accepted the amendment, and that's the motion that passed.

Grits finds this episode particularly notable and encouraging. As mentioned, not so long ago, these sort of grandstanding Tuff-on-Crime resolutions were as common as stink on a pig and played quite well with their intended audience, very much across party lines. These days, public support for such regressive stances has dissipated and a more motivated, militant, and bipartisan opposition to mass incarceration appears to be emerging.

Indeed, it's hard to describe for anyone younger than about 35 how radically different this episode was than the situation that faced us when your correspondent entered this work in the mid-'90s. Like night and day.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Time to call this what it really is------a massive jobs program. Texas prison sentences are ridiculous in too many cases and our lawyers can start driving Nissans and Toyotas like the rest of us as they give up their Benzes and Bimmers. As the Geritol generation leaves TDCJ they are signing up for Medicare, Medicaid, disability, subsidized health care, rent assistance and the safety net that simpleton voters and media shills for the rich always turn a blind eye to. The true costs of ridiculous sentencing have never been addressed by anyone. Here in El Paso the number of beggars holding signs at the I-10 entrances and exits tell the story of Texas pseudo law that is WMW--white man's welfare.

Anonymous said...

Why spend 40K plus annually to house someone that can be deported?

Anonymous said...

The key question is how we begin a “community discussion” around the need for a more comprehensive approach to addressing social and criminal justice issues, especially violent crime and high re-arrest recidivism rates. Yes, the crime rates have decreased over the years, but they are on the upswing. If an individual does not integrate into their local communities, they are far less likely to realize success in avoiding recidivism. I am not aware of the Pflugerville issues, but a good example of this upswing in crime and disorder is the area surrounding 6th St in Austin, Texas. Clearly, this area is an “unfenced penitentiary” and the disorder is having a direct impact on citizens and visitors. A focus on community will work to address this conflict that may escalate to more violent or aggressive confrontations that necessitate police and justice system involvement. Community building and community reintegration strategies could go a long way in reducing both initial justice system involvement and recidivism rates.
However, it is equally important to continue to protect our communities with consistency and certainty of punishment for those individuals that are creating this disorder and are serious chronic threats to our community and find strategies that are focused on deterrence and incapacitation to promote greater public safety. Although, the research suggests that prison and jail populations may increase because of “get tough” sentencing practices, most importantly, the falling crime rates may be the result of these efforts. Maybe there are other solutions than traditional incarceration and containment for chronic offenders, and this may be where the community dialog can begin but many authorities believe that our communities are safer today because of these targeted “get tough” efforts. You can still be smart and tough on crime by addressing the social and criminal justice system issues collectively and it is important to continue with these practices.

Steven Seys said...

From someone who has looked at this issue from the inside, the "Tough-on-Crime" policy seems to have two driving motives that are not readily apparent to someone looking at it from the outside. The first hidden motive seems to be one of voter control. So long as he's incarcerated, a prisoner is removed from the electorate. Looking at the demographics of prison population, you see mostly minority and poor people in prison in Texas, people who are more likely to vote liberal. By incarcerating a significant number of them for periods of time longer than a projected human lifespan one can guarantee that they don't vote the incumbent conservatives out of office.
The second hidden motive is eugenics. By locking up people that are deemed unfit for procreation by the ones in charge, you can re-engineer the gene pool to exclude their distasteful DNA. Of course no one uses the term any more since eugenics acquired such a bad name in the 1940s when the Nazis practiced it violently on a national, even continental scale to engineer the perfect super race. But incarcerating a person throughout the years of fertility does eliminate his opportunity to contribute to the gene pool. This became evident when California allowed Tex Watson to marry and father a child while serving his life sentence and an outcry rose up from his childhood neighbors in Texas.
If these two motives are not the ones driving mass incarceration, they are serendipitous consequences of the same.

Anonymous said...

Or Steven, perhaps it's simply that we really do have violent crimes and predatory sexual offenses, and the victims of those crimes really do deserve justice for what happened to them. Funny how having someone you love murdered or sexually violated can add some very real perspective to this "tough on crime" discussion. Oh wait, I almost forgot that among the liberals and "smart on crime" policy wonks victims really don't matter, do they?

Anthony Colton said...

Deportation doesn't fix anything when they try to come back to the only life they know and just end up back in jail welfare.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous @ 11:00 am
I assume from your post that you have suffered a tragedy as a result of crime and for that I am truly sorry. However after working in the criminal justice system from entry to executive level,and having earned a PhD in Criminology I must disagree with your post.
One does not have to be a policy wonk or a liberal to work to insure that the states most powerful force, the ability to deprive freedom and in some cases life, is not taken lightly by those of us who dedicated our lives to insuring that the ideals of a system of of equal justice under the law cannot and should not be driven only by the very real pain of those victims and their families. This is why it is the State of Texas vs._________, not individuals seeking retribution and redress for the damage, however terrible, that happens.

Anonymous said...

8:11 - I'm also very sorry for your personal experience that very understandably influences your perspective. I, too, am a survivor of violent crime and like many survivors, am actually encouraged by criminal justice reforms that hold offenders accountable versus merely responsible. Sure, lock-em-up has its appeal but I'd much rather see my offender gain an understanding around his behavior, make amends, and do what he needs to do on himself to assure that he doesn't hurt someone else in the future.

Grits - kudos to you for your part in this (frankly astonishing) turn of events. I know our friends in Pflugerville are still reeling from being the home of the bomber and it would have been so easy to follow through on a knee-jerk reaction such as the one you described.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to what the Council hoped would happen with this vote. After all, municipalities don't prosecute crimes or make criminal justice policy in terms of sentencing. And in Travis County, Pflugerville is definitely not the loudest or even the leading voice in county policy. Must be an election year.

TriggerMortis said...

It's a cycle. We go from one extreme to the other. Back in the 1930's those who stole a loaf of bread faced a decade on a chain gang. By the late 40's the same loaf of bread would get you a few days or a week in the local jail. Sometime in the 60's we placed the emphasis on rehabilitation, then by the 80's we were all about punishment again.

Some things haven't changed though. Those who normally demand stiff punishments still come into the office expecting their child to receive a slap on the hand for a stash of illegal drugs, while those who normally think we're too tough on crime expect a life sentence for the kid who burglarized their car.

Anonymous said...

check out "Texas Criminal Alien Arrest Data"

just put them in trucks and drive them to where there aren't any white Border Patrol pick up trucks

if enough come in every American can watch their health insurance payments triple or more---only after a state's finances look like Illinois do some wake up

Anonymous said...

In my experience the police never solved a break-in, so i never got the chance to find out how I'd react. lol

Anonymous said...

Tough on crime equals tough on the shrinking group that go to work everyday and pay their share of taxes. Why not be smart on crime instead and give the low paid majority of the working class a break? Take the ten per cent plus of TDCJ that are illegals and gift them back to avocado land. How many illegals are now on probation and parole? Come to think of it, how many of those in limbo vote? Turn the so called legal system into a dialysis machine instead of a vast effluvium holding tank. No matter what laws or giveaway schemes get passed the horde will continue to climb walls and tunnel beneath them so let's step up the return policy on those that know how to play the system.

Anonymous said...

A item of concern for me is that the DA of my county is posting about his program of using inmates to do clean-up and now the residents want to know when will "BE ON MY ROAD" be done. His answer is that he is working on getting more crews. That is a real concern for me and what I watch in this system.