Sunday, January 20, 2008

Texas Jail News

Just a few jail-related headlines from around the state:

Staffing improved, though Dallas jail still fails inspection
The Dallas County Jail failed its state inspection last week for the fifth straight year. Officials knew the jail would fail, though more was out of compliance than they earlier thought. The good news: For the first time in years, staffing at the jail met minimum state requirements. That won't last for long, though, once Dallas opens up a new 2,300 bed jail wing next year.

What can Harris DA do about county jail?
Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association president Patrick McCann has a good column in the Houston Chronicle suggesting questions for District Attorney candidates, including what they'd do about the local jail being overstuffed with mentally ill and low-level drug offenders.

New information system speeds up Midland jail processing
In Midland, a new record keeping system helped reduce jail overcrowding enough in just 23 days that the county could stop leasing beds from other county jails. The system will also help the problem of offenders simply being forgotten: "By being able to monitor the names and time they've been in jail, someone doesn't become forgotten in the system," said District Judge John Hyde. "With as many as 300 people in jail in a county this size, sometimes names can be overlooked." The improved data system has sped up processing time all through the system, processing low-level offenders out of jail sooner and prison-ready offenders to the state more quickly:

Another thing the ... system does is allow judges to keep track of inmates who have all their paperwork ready to enter the state prison system. The so-called pen pack includes the judgment, the offense report and all the documents necessary to transfer inmates to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The system also can show judges if a pre-sentencing report or any other paperwork is missing, Hyde said.

District Attorney Teresa Clingman echoed Painter, saying the computer system has helped, but it's the cooperation of the pretrial bonding department, sheriff, police, jail and the city's computer system has helped speed things up.

"It allows us to go straight into (the city's) system and download the officers' report within about 24-48 hours of the officer having written it," Clingman said. Previously, it took a minimum of 10 days for the DA's office to get police reports.

"We are whipping and spurring," she said.

Waco judge uses shaming in lieu of jail time
A McLennan County (Waco) judge allowed a shoplifting defendant to choose a shaming punishment over jail time. Said the defendant: "For one thing, nobody wants to spend time in jail and for another thing I have a life."


John D. McLauchlan said...

That the Dallas County jail flunked inspection again shouldn't surprise anyone. It took the county years to create the problem and it will take the county years to fix it.

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