Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Morning Quickies

Here's a quick roundup of criminal-justice related news stories that deserve Grits readers' attention:

Fed public defenders outperform private attorneys
Via Sentencing Law & Policy, Doc Berman points to a New York Times article by Adam Liptak revealing that public defenders achieve better outcomes than private attorneys representing clients in the federal system. Meanwhile in Texas, Bowie County (Texarkana) commissioners are preparing to create a new public defender office.

Levin: Decriminalize gum chewing
In a Houston Chronicle op ed, Texas Public Policy Foundation Center for Effective Justice Director Marc Levin argues against treating juvenile behavior as criminal, and updates us on
A law passed this session should encourage schools to move in this direction for Class C misdemeanors. Schools will no longer be able to issue criminal citations to students for conduct that is not a criminal offense under state or local law. Texas schools had been citing kids for routine misbehavior, including an 8-year-old in Houston for chewing gum. Instead of handing out citations like lollipops and passing the paddle to municipal courts, schools will now have an incentive to implement restorative processes.
Bad ideas won't go away in Bexar County
Two Bexar County commissioners are pushing hard for using a tent jail to solve overcrowding problems, despite opposition from the Sheriff's Office who would run the facility. Regular readers know I think tent jails are a security disaster because, as Deputy Dennis McKnight told commissioners, they invite problems like "drive-by shootings and contraband being thrown into the tent area." Tent jails are just for show - a grandstanding "tuff" solution that doesn't address the real sources of local jail overcrowding. They're a cop out, representing a failure of leadership and a vacuum of ideas. Worst of all, they won't solve the problem since they can only be used temporarily.

Why not address the source? Bexar's jail overcrowding nearly entirely results from failing to allow nonviolent misdemeanor defendants to receive personal bonds. Why not start there? While you're at it, stop your squabbling and create a public defender office to move cases faster. Meanwhile, in the near term the county, judges, and local police departments should be doing everything possible to implement the new statute allowing citations instead of arrests for certain nonviolent misdemeanants.
Put away your band-aids, commissioners, and figure out how to solve the problem.

Johnson County tells cities to pay for lockup
Speaking of jail overcrowding, in Johnson County the county jail will begin charging municipalities $35 per day to house defendants arrested for Class C misdemeanors. If cities do not agree to pay, the county will not hold their inmates. I wonder if, after HB 2391 goes into effect, counties jails could do the same thing for folks arrested for offenses where officers now have the option to give a summons. There's no requirement for taking Class C misdemeanants to jail, it's solely at the officer's discretion. So it makes perfect sense for Johnson County to charge police for the extra service. After September 1, the same thing can be said of offenses covered under HB 2391. I'll bet it would increase use of new summons authority by local PDs if they all had to pay when they didn't use this new tool.

Mexican drug cops tipped off raid target
It turns out the Chinese businessman who owned the Mexico City home where authorities found $205 million in cash earlier this year was a close associate of Mexico's police and the ruling party. He's in New York walking around free, and the DEA says it has not received the necessary paperwork to investigate him. Hmmmmm. This guy gets cut a lot of slack from cops on both sides of the border. Reported the Dallas News:
The official investigation against him and testimony from employees and relatives, including his jailed wife, suggest cozy ties among the Chinese businessman, politicians and even members of the military. Anti-drug police allegedly extorted bribes from him but also warned him to leave the country before the raid on his house.
Also, Pete Guither turns us on to an excellent article titled "Militarizing Mexico" compares what's happening in Mexico to the militarization of Colombia and the US war on drugs.

I wonder if Starbucks filed an amicus brief?
A federal district judge ruled that failing to serve coffee daily to ad seg inmates in TDCJ did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment and dismissed the claim as frivolous. Nearly 10,000 Texas prisoners are in ad seg, and they're considered the most dangerous of the bunch. A morning coffee makes me less grumpy, I'm surprised TDCJ wouldn't be happy to get let 'em have their morning cup of joe. Whaddya think - is deprivation of coffee cruel and unusual punishment?


Anonymous said...

It's not just cruel and unusual punishment -- it's torture. Give me solitary confinement, but don't take away my dark roast.

billt said...

Didn't TDC use tents back in the 80's? I've seen an aerial shot of Ramsey 2 (now Stringfellow) and I think it had tents around it; looked like the circus or MASH had set up shop. Didn't William Wayne Justice put an end to tents? What's the difference between TDC and county jailsusing tents? oh -- yes, removing the morning cuppa joe is cruel IMO.

Anonymous said...

Bexar County is involved in politics way more than justice or public safety. While the mis. judges and commissioners each have their faults. The real big problem is the felony judges who care about no one except themselves.

3 felony judges are up in 2008. Its time for a change- The roar will grow louder as we get closer to 2008.

The stagnant issues in Bexar are about to change- VOTERS are sick of the incompetence with some of the judges. If you docket is backed up then catch up, try not resetting cases 50 times, come to work for a full day, take a normal lunch break, demand the defense attorneys get their act together and actually know their client 2 minutes before court time, the courts are to be run for justice not campaign contributions!!!!

Anonymous said...

i know three judges, whom notvoting for. about the bad ideas in Bexar Co - stop letting outsiders try to run our city and county. this it folks sweet and simple.

Anonymous said...

Not having coffee in Ad/Seg is another drop of water in the torture that is "administrative segregation" or ISOLATION.