Friday, September 21, 2018

Toothless prisoners' liquid diet, good faith for me but not for thee, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention headed into the weekend:

Toothless prisoners' liquid diet
The Texas prison system has all but stopped giving dentures to toothless inmates, preferring to put their food through a blender and feed them liquids, instead, reported the Houston Chronicle's Keri Blakinger. That seems particularly callous, and unnecessarily chintzy.

Dallas must change bail system
Dallas lost the first round of its own bail litigation; see Dallas News coverage.

Back to school
Elizabeth Bruenig is a badass, journalistic hero. Hard to overstate from how many angles I admired her coverage of a rape twelve years ago, and the resulting ostracization and torment inflicted upon the victim, that took place during her high-school days in Arlington. Immaculate reporting, sparkling prose. What a story. And one that could be written, I bet, for a lot of high schools, including my own.

'So many people sitting in jail'
In Waco, apparently oblivious to the possibility of reducing pretrial detention through bail reform, McLennan County officials will pay for an extra, associate judge to process cases faster. According to the latest report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, currently more than 85 percent of McLennan County Jail inmates are being held pretrial. One commissioner lamented, “We’ve got so many people sitting in jail that could plea,” ignoring the fact that the District Attorney's tough-on-crime plea positions play a big role in that calculus. It takes two sides to make a plea deal.

Good-faith for me but not for thee
When Tarrant County DA Sharen Wilson prosecuted an ex-prisoner for illegally voting, she refused to accept that the woman had made a good faith error and didn't know the law. But when Wilson herself violated campaign finance laws by illegally soliciting contributions from her employees, reported The Appeal, a special prosecutor said her intent could not be proven. "It looks like a double standard on its face," an SMU law professor declared.

Warrant roundup blues
The Dallas Marshall's office held a warrant roundup this month, but officials in Fort Worth have ended the practice. In 2017, state Rep. James White filed legislation to end the practice of jailing people to coerce payment of government debt. That suggestion was given a boost in June, when both the Republican and Democratic parties included such a prohibition in their platforms. By this time next year, your correspondent hopes the Texas Legislature will have forbade using incarceration for debt collection. It's time.

Beating by prison guard led to inmate death
A 22-year old Texas prison guard who allegedly beat an inmate to death has been charged with aggravated assault after the man died from his injuries two weeks later. After an episode earlier that day where the inmate allegedly spit on him, the guard's supervisor told him to stay away from the man. Instead, the guard took him to the inmate shower and gave him a beating. In a case resulting in death, that seems awfully intentional to get only an agg assault charge and not manslaughter, or even murder.

Evidence of racial bias in justice system overwhelming
Radley Balko makes the case that, "the evidence of racial bias in our criminal-justice system isn’t just convincing — it’s overwhelming." See his comprehensive summation.

15 comments:

Steven Seys said...

@Beating: It's difficult with my experience to dredge up sympathy for either the guard or the prisoner in this case. When I served on Okinawa as a Camp Guard aboard Camp Schwab, I was trained to subdue professional, highly trained killers without causing harm. (Uncle Sam invests a lot of money in the training of infantry and doesn't like to see it wasted.) Therefore, I have no sympathy for an agent of the state who claims the need to do physical harm in order to subdue a suspect. OTOH, there are some extremely violent racists living in TDCJ whose worldview is ugly and unsympathetic to someone who holds the belief, as I do, that there is only one, multi-hued and multi-ethnic race of people on Earth, humans. Understanding both sides of the issue as I do, I can only say this: the reason it is rare for a guard to be charged with assaulting or killing a prisoner in Texas is that the system encourages and protects for such behavior on the part of its employees. It's about time someone put an end to the free ride guards get for violating the basic human right to life. My only desire in the situation is that it could have been a case where the system is not under pressure from a security threat group who will retaliate against employees if a guard who killed one of their own is not punished. Don't put that guard in general population, however. These people hate him for two reasons, his pigmentation and his action.

Anonymous said...

I want to know how many sets of dentures it takes to air condition a prison unit.

Anonymous said...

Medicare and Medicaid in general do not pay for dentures either.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@10:34, agreed re: Medicare. However, dentures are optional coverage under Medicaid. Some states cover them, some don't. But they are authorized by the feds if states choose.

Shellie S. said...

There are lots of law abiding people in Texas who don't qualify for Medicaid, and they also have dental needs-- including a need for dentures. Nobody is paying for these law abiding people to get false teeth, and they have to just make do. I would wager that some of these innocent people are also losing weight from being unable to eat properly due to a lack of teeth. Why should an inmate who has been tried and convicted of a crime have a "luxury" that someone on the outside who has never broken the law cannot afford? This is nonsense.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Shellie, the short answer is that, when the government chooses to deprive someone of their liberty, the US Supreme Court has said it also must take responsibility for their healthcare. No one forces Texas to incarcerate more people than every other state, many of them well into their dotage when they no longer pose a public safety threat. But Texas has made that choice, and it has consequences.

Larry Coffin said...

In 1986 I paid over $3,000 for root canals and crowns. I had a full set of good, expensive teeth when I entered TDCJ in 1991. A few years later, a couple of crowns came loose and the dentist made several attempts to reattach (glue) the crowns. The existing teeth to which the crowns were attached started breaking off because i was finally told that there were no other options for reattaching the crowns. To the contrary, the dentist who did the crowns originally had no trouble re-attaching 2 that came loose.
For whatever reason, my dentist originally told me that my teeth are more brittle than normal, hence, broken teeth in TDCJ. I was told that they do not do root canals and crowns in order to preserve my teeth. All they could do was pull the teeth.
Bottom line, when i got out in 1991 i only had 5 top front teeth and 6 lower front. $3,000+ was wasted because the system rationalized and took the cheap way out.
On another similar note, try finding psych counselling services nowadays; it does not exist. I know. The only coulseling that is provided on the GP units is 15 minutes per month for persons on the psych case load who are on medications.

I tried the blended meals but the taste was sickening beyond description.

RE: As for my reply to Shellie S, yes, i committed a crime, but just because i did does not disqualify me and others from proper medical care. As for the less fortunate on the outside, there are many options available for free and low-cost dental care. There are many agencies that provide financial assistance as well as colleges and dental schools that provide those services on a sliding scale, a certain percentage of cost of, say, the crown or denture materials, or free. Here in Denton, there are three agencies. One provides the dentist and any work that he/she does, many times at no cost. The other two are free or sliding scale through financial assistance. All it takes to find this assistance is a little research and seeking out these entities.

Larry Coffin said...

CORRECTION: It should read "when i got out in 2011...". Sorry, my bad.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I'd like to read Bruenig's article but it's behind a paywall. Can you provide another means of access? (Preferably one that doesn't require pulverizing it in a blender.)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Seems like it's only published on the Post site, 4:38, but there's a Dallas News editorial in response to the story here.

D007 said...

Following your logic many law abiding citizens can't afford food, diabetes supplies, et cetera. I suppose we should deny inmates those "luxuries," also. I don't believe dentures are a luxury for anyone. Instead of depriving more individuals of what is a necessity because they have made poor choices in life, I am more interested in advocating for a society where everyone can have their basic needs met regardless of income. Unfortunately, we call that "socialism" in this country and then a bunch of people freak out.

D007 said...

My husband is inside now and broke a tooth when glass was left in his chow. TDCJ actually did a crown when I raised holy heck, but it failed because it was cheap and crappy. They put some kind of glue over it after I again raised a stink, but the dentist did it begrudgingly and in fact did some dental work sans numbing just to remind my husband who was in charge. The crap diet in there deteriorates a lot of people's teeth.

D007 said...

He was told they would only pull teeth. Once you pull one the ones beside that one start getting loose and so on from there.

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