Thursday, January 04, 2007

'Smart' approach to prisons sought

The Dallas Morning News today covers prospective changes to probation in the coming 80th Texas Legislature ("'Smart 'approach to prisons sought," Jan. 4). Not much here Grits readers haven't heard before in spades, but several interesting quotes. State bureaucrats who want to build more prisons, reported the News,
have a formidable – and bipartisan – opposition. Rep. Jerry Madden, the Plano Republican who serves as Mr. Whitmire's counterpart on the House Committee on Corrections, jokes that the two unlikely bedfellows are an "allied front – the compassionate Republican and the fiscally responsible Democrat."

Both say they fear pouring money into new prisons just to watch them fill – what Mr. Madden calls the "build it and they will come" phenomenon.
That's a pretty accurate description of Madden and Whitmire's unlikely alliance - part of what makes the current political dynamic on Texas criminal justice reform so fascinating and compelling. At this point, many people want to change the system for many different reasons from across the political spectrum. Said state Sen. John Carona:
"The tragedy, during the buildup, was that we did not provide more funds for rehabilitation," said Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas. "Now we end up with prisoners who, upon their release, are no more skilled, but meaner and tougher than when they entered."
"Tragedy" is the word for it. Here's hoping that once we're past this cursed Speaker's race, the Lege will focus this year on reversing the criminal justice system's current, tragic course, starting with fixing the broken probation system.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Closed File Policies Should End Among Texas Prosecutors!

A subcommittee of the Texas House Committee On Criminal Jurisprudence explained that "(d)iscovery in a criminal case is the procedure by which a party to the case obtains facts and other information about the case from the other party in order to assist in preparation for trial". (C. J. Cmte, Interim Rpt, p 23 - 10/30/06). Undoubtedly many of us have thought at one time or another that an alleged criminal does not even deserve a trial, not to mention helpful discovery. Hopefully the series of highly publicized stories about wrongfully convicted people in America leave us all at least a bit more inclined to err on the side of caution.

In primarily placing the burden of discovery on prosecutors under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, "there has not been uniformity in how jurisdictions have been making records available". (C. J. Cmte, Interim Rpt, p 24 - 10/30/06). Some criminal defendants and defense lawyers tell tales of "trial by ambush" or the stress of making "blind plea agreements" in Texas. About half of the state's prosecutors enforce "closed file" policies nonetheless, often suggesting there are no other effective ways to protect victims and witnesses.

Southeastern Christian Association, Inc. (SECA) is a national human rights organization headquartered in Houston, Texas. It joins those who believe that concealing evidence should not be an official strategy for obtaining criminal convictions in America. To amplify the sinisterness of closed file policies, SECA through its state division West Texas Beat, asked both the Committee On Criminal Jurisprudence and Committee On Juvenile Justice and Family Issues of the Texas House to consider "the devastating effects a prosecutor's closed file policy can have on children" in the context of two (2) cases out of Abilene,Texas.

Now is your turn to act - Come Rally With Us!
Prison Ministries; Juvenile Court Reform Activists; Child Advocates; Family Advocates;
Criminal Justice System Reform Activists; Civil Rights Activists; Concerned Citizens . . .

It is very important that we get an astronomical amount of people to participate in a rally that will take place in Abilene, Texas.
We will march from the Federal Courthouse to the State Courthouse.

Monday February 5, 2007
(time to be announced)
Abilene, Texas

Those who want to speak at the rally should contact Dr. Le Roy Gillam immediately: 832.228.3207

On Line Advocacy Starts Today!

Reinforce SECA's requests for investigation with a flood of supportive phone calls, emails, and faxes.
Let the Texas Legislature know your views on the closed file policies of state prosecutors.
With your help, Texas will see an end to closed file policies among its prosecutors.
With your help, two Texas teenagers may receive justice at long last.

For more info: Click Here
Forwarded Message

Subject: FW: Prosecutor or Persecutor? A Campaign To End Closed File Policies
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2007