Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Penalty increases DOA in Senate?

Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire will block any bills increasing prison sentences in response to the overincarceration crisis, the Houston Democrat told Mike Ward in today's Austin Statesman.
"They're not going anywhere," said Whitmire, referring to the dozens of Senate and House bills that would enhance punishments for a variety of crimes, including auto burglary, theft from vending machines and dog fighting. As chairman of the committee that oversees prisons and criminal justice issues, Whitmire has the clout to keep bills from passing out of his committee.

"If it's really an issue of public safety, then we'll find the money to get the additional (prison) beds. But with many of the bills I've seen, we're being asked to enhance penalties when prosecutors and judges aren't even sentencing people to the full penalties now.

"So far, I haven't seen any enhancement bills I believe we absolutely have to have."

Thank heavens, and thank you, Senator. Whitmire said the bills he wouldn't allow to pass include HB 151, discussed previously by Grits here, here, here, and here.

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