Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Link Dump

Here's a quick roundup of some stories I missed while I was down sick the last couple of days:
  • Odgen says TYC will top budget priorities. The McAllen Monitor's Elizabeth Pierson continues her excellent coverage of problems at the Texas Youth Commission's juvenile detention facilities. She quotes Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden declaring,"When we’re marking up the budget, we’re going to kick (TYC) up to the top of the list when we make recommendations so we don’t get into the situation where we take them up last and we’re out of money and we can’t do anything. ... We need to make TYC a priority and focus on it early and first."
  • Dallas County Jail Crisis: DallasBlog updates us on the challenges facing Sheriff Lupe Valdez in reforming the "Chamber of Horrors" that is the Dallas County Jail.
  • AG says TDCJ can test inmates for HIV if it chooses. After Sen. Rodney Ellis requested on opinion on whether it's within TDCJ's purview to test all incoming inmates for HIV, AG Greg Abbott this week came back with an answer: Yes, they can. Now it remains to be seen if TDCJ's board will exercise this rule making power. Currently inmates are tested only if they give consent, which results in about 80% of inmates being tested. Testing everybody might cost big bucks, though - already HIV medications account for more than 40% of TDCJ's pharmaceutical budget. On the other hand, not knowing could cost more if it means they're more likely to spread the disease. See the Houston Chronicle's coverage.
  • Smith county jail guard(s) may have assisted murder for hire scheme. This sordid tale from my hometown highlights common security problems in local jails. A crook sitting in jail facing a life sentence on the word of a snitch "obtained a picture of the informant and a cell phone in the jail and plotted to kill the person." I've written before about how inmates get cell phones - you have to have a guard help you. And how else would he obtain a picture of the informant in jail without the assistance of law enforcement? Shouldn't whatever guard who assisted this murder for hire scheme share in the conspiracy charges? Sounds to me like Smith County has at least one or more crooked guard on the payroll, not to mention some neglectful administrators. Yes, I'm talking about you, J.B.
  • Dutton re-files bill restructuring pot sentences. Kudos to Rep. Harold Dutton for filing HB 758, which would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor. Similar legislation in 2005 received unanimous support from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, including some of the most conservative members in the Texas Legislature, primarily because it would significantly contribute to reducing county jail overcrowding and likely even increase enforcement. (More on this soon in a planned post outlining what the Legislature could do to reduce county jail overcrowding.)
  • Immigration Detention debates heating up in Texas. For those tracking issues surrounding immigration detention in Texas, see this informative post from the Immigration Law Blog.
  • Dearl Hardy not out of the woods yet. In a surprise move, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reinstated legal proceedings against former Chambers County Chief Deputy Dearl Hardy, possibly putting his Christian C&W music career on hold (to the chagrin of both his fans). As this Texas Observer report from 2001 demonstrates, it probably couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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