Thursday, May 24, 2007

Texas Criminal Justice News Roundup

Just a quick tour around the web revealed several interesting items that may interest Grits readers:

Blame and Innocence
Via Burnt Orange Report, the San Antonio Express News editorialized yesterday that House Criminal Jurisprudence Chairman Aaron Peña is responsible for the death of Sen. Rodney Ellis' SB 263 creating an "Innocence Commission" in Texas, and a columnist lamented the bill's passing. My own editorials about Peña's role in the bill's death drew quite a set of heated responses, see here and here. As partial recompense for this ignominious lapse, I'd like to see Peña's committee address innocence topics in an interim study to show they aren't COMPLETELY inured to the plight of innocent people languishing in Texas prisons.

'Feel-good' legislation ignores real border security needs
The McAllen police chief entirely summed up my opinion of so-called "border security" legislation (HB 13) that's nearing passage in Austin ("Police chief urges sheriffs to remember city departments," McAllen Monitor, May 23):
McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez slammed state and federal legislators during a speech given before the quarterly meeting of the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, held this week in Pharr.

He accused lawmakers of ignoring the needs of the region’s municipal police departments and of passing “feel-good legislation” that allows them to wash their hands of the nation’s border security problems.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

When Life Means Life
Meet Harvey Stewart, Texas' longest serving inmate.

When Tuff on Crime is Tuff on Coffers
The Cameron County Jail is a money pit.

TYC's New Gender Segregation
The Texas Youth Commission will begin segregating students by gender at TYC units, reports the Austin Statesman. Like most reforms announced by the agency since it was taken over by a conservator, I can't think of one problem this solves that would have helped prevent any of the abuses that have come to light in the last few months. (Readers, correct me in the comments if you disagree.) Once again, it appears to me TYC administrators hope the Lege and the public will confuse activity with achievement - sadly, that's probably a good bet.

Chaplaincy Explored
The Houston Chronicle ran an interesting article exploring the TDJC Chaplains program. Said a Muslim chaplain, "Many of these men are going to go back to their communities, and they need to return as an asset, not a liability," he said. "So we talk about family life, citizenship responsibilities, social life, being drug free, etcetera." I also thought this item was interesting about a prison ministry group that's going to help rehab the chapel at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville.

What CrimLaw Blogs Do You Read?
I meant to link to this earlier, but Jamie Spencer at the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer has asked readers to suggest criminal law blogs in a variety of topics. If you have any input on the subject, let him know.


Anonymous said...

Grits, I tend to agree with your assessment of gender segregation at TYC.

Juvenile correctional facilities historically had been sex segregated for much of the 20th century, until the Morales case.

In the 70s, it was determined that co-educational facilities would create a more "normal" social environment for the kids, and cut down on deviant behaviors (and the guards' propensity back then to label kids "homosexual" for let's just say questionable reasons).

I reread this Statesman article twice and couldn't find a clear reason given for gender segregation, other than protecting girls from juvenile male sex offenders. Why can't that be done without segregating the entire population?

Although I haven't read the confidential report cited in the article, it seems that they are proceeding on an assumption that this move will benefit girls. Maybe and maybe not. Let's see some empirical evidence.

I wonder what TYC staff think about this. Does it make your work easier, or does it create new problems?
Bill Bush, UNLV

Anonymous said...

The vast majority of TYC youth were already segregated by gender. They only had both boys and girls on the same campus at three facilities - Giddings (so they could have all the Capital Offender treatment kids on one campus), Corsicana (where all tehe seriously mentally ill youth go) and Brownwood Unit I (across the street from Unit II which is all girls).

I doubt this will have a positive outcome. My gut feeling is that it will result in the girls not recieving the same range of services that will be available to the boys. There's no way a single all-girls facility can staff to serve the needs of girls with the various specialized treatment needs, and have a stabilization unit for girls with serious mental illnesses. If the services offered to the girls are in any way less than what the boys get...then we deserve to get our assess sued off and lose.

I'm not saying they should mix the genders for everything. But there's nothing in history or society to make me believe seperate won't end up being unequal.

Anonymous said...

I understand the need to segregate the girls, and lets face it a majoirty of the girls (And boys) are in TYC becuase they refuse to follow societies rules, I only hope that with these changes and all female facilities that they use only female staff for direct supervisio and contact with females. This would cause fewer problems for staff.

Anonymous said...

anon at 2:06 - I don't think there's any way legally they can restrict staff at all-girls facilities to just women. Just as they cannot restrict staff to men at the boys facilities. It would likely violate all sorts of non-discrimination laws. Not to mention it would make it hard to adequately staff the facilities...we have a hard enough time with that now without that kind of gender restriction.

Not to mention that assumes all men are going to take advantage of girls. I have a higher opinion of most men than that.

Anonymous said...

My experience is that more girls will report a male staff for sexual misconduct as a way to manipulate staff... and boys who are engaging in sexual misconduct with female staff are not likely to report it.

Also, as a Male staff I have no desire to supervise female students during routines and TYC's preference has been not to allow male staff to do so. However, female staff often supervise i.e. watch male students shower.

Just societies doubel standard.

Anonymous said...

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