Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Texas criminal justice committee roundup

After previewing bills heard this week in the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence, Corrections, and Law Enforcement Committees, I wanted to add a few quick updates from this week's committee action:

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee yesterday heard hours of testimony and approved a version of "Jessica's Law" with a promise from the author that unspecified changes would be made before it reached the Senate floor. The Stand Down blog is your go-to source. See prior Grits coverage of HB 8 ("Jessica's Law").

Vince has more from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which also yesterday kicked out a just-filed bill that would fire the existing Texas Youth Commission board. (You'd think these folks would see the writing on the wall, and git while the gittin' is good.) See more from AP.

Meanwhile, as predicted, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved two more enhancements yesterday - HB 1887 by Truitt for burglary of a vechicle, and HB 495 by Bonnen for assault against emergency personnel. Bonnen's bill increases the penalty two steps, from a Class A misdemeanor to a 3rd degree felony, if an assault victim was an emergency services worker as defined in the bill, including police, firefighters and EMTs.

Finally, the House Corrections Committee on Monday approved a narrow but good bill, HB 47 by Hodge, that allows for in-cell education for inmates in administrative segregation (solitary confinement). And speaking of House Corrections, the inaugural program of Vince's Capitol Annex podcast last night featured an interview with Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden. The Chairman repeated predictions that under current trends, without any new enhancements, Texas will require 17,000 new prison beds by 2012. But if the Legislature fully funds a stronger probation system, he announced, the Legislative Budget Board has calculated over the same period TDCJ's prison population could actually reduce by 4-5,000.

That's quite a turnaround. I hope they achieve it. And I hope the Governor has the good sense not to veto it this time.

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