Monday, February 11, 2008

Propose Jail Diversion Resolution at Local Precinct Conventions

With Texas in play this year in the presidential primary, the fight for Texas' delegates will include precinct convention-level battles that will mark many people's first interaction with the nuts and bolts of a political party's internal process.

Over at Burnt Orange Report, Mark Camann has a nice post describing the process of proposing a resolution at your party's precinct convention. I'd mentioned over the weekend that this year, at least on the Democratic side, committed voters can register their preference twice - once at the ballot box and once on election night at their local precinct convention.

The resolution process is pretty much the same in both parties. Anyone who voted in the primary from that precinct can bring a resolution to the convention (held when the polls close at the location where you voted), and if a majority there support it, the resolution will be recommended to your county party for inclusion in the state platform.

For obvious reasons, resolutions submitted in multiple counties and/or senate districts have a better chance of making it all the way into a party's platform.

Several draft resolutions were suggested in the BOR comments, but none on criminal justice issues. So as a thought exercise, I took Camann's template and created one on prison and jail diversion. It's suitable for presentation when you go to your precinct convention. Let me know what you think:

WHEREAS Texas prison and jails are full everywhere in the state, costing taxpayers' billions of dollars;

WHEREAS Texas cannot hire enough guards to staff current prisons, even when money is budgeted;

WHEREAS the majority of people in county jails have not been convicted and are only in jail because they cannot afford bond, and the majority of people in prison are non-violent offenders;

WHEREAS 30% of Texas prison inmates are prior clients of the state's indigent mental health system;

WHEREAS 70,000 offenders leave Texas prisons and re-enter our communities every year;

WHEREAS the state of Texas incarcerates a higher percentage of our citizens than any totalitarian dictatorship on the planet; and

WHEREAS 90% of Texas' corrections budget is spent on operating prisons holding 155,000 inmates, while just 10% is spent on less expensive community corrections departments, which supervise more than 500,000 people combined on probation and parole;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Texas Legislature to stop building expensive new prisons and instead expand funding for community corrections, including drug and alcohol treatment, drug courts and mental health services;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to support shorter, stronger probation that gives offenders a real chance to earn their way off of supervision early through good behavior and completion of required programming;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to fund all programming it requires of offenders so they don't take up prison space while on a waiting list, particularly for mandatory drug and alcohol treatment in adult prisons;

BE IT RESOLVED that Texas must fund mental health assessment for the mentally ill in county jails, competency restoration for the mentally ill who have committed serious offenses, and alternatives to incarceration for people whose mental illness is their primary reason for landing in jail, wherever practical;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party urges county governments to reduce pretrial detention for those who cannot afford bond, and adequately fund legal representation for indigent defendants.

Submitted to and Adopted by Precinct ____ in ________________ County, Texas, Senatorial District ___, on March 4, 2008.

Convention Secretary
Obviously on a bipartisan issue like prison and jail crowding, Republicans could change out the party names.

If you're going to your local precinct convention, consider taking this resolution and proposing it. If you do, let me know in the comments, and don't forget to come back and report the results. If you're going to show up anyway to support your candidate, you may as well make the most of it.


Anonymous said...

This is a resolution I was able to get adopted in my caucus in Iowa.


Whereas, the overall situation regarding the use of drugs in our society and the crime and misery that accompanies it has continued to deteriorate for several decades; and

Whereas, our society has continued to attempt, at enormous financial cost, to resolve drug abuse problems through the criminal justice system, with the accompanying increases of prisons and numbers of inmates; and

Whereas, the huge untaxed revenues generated by the illicit drug trade are undermining legitimate governments world-wide; and

Whereas, the present system has spawned a cycle of hostility by the incarceration of disproportionate numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups; and

Whereas, the number of people who have contracted AIDS, hepatitis, and other diseases from contaminated hypodermic needles is epidemic under our present system; and

Whereas, in our society's zeal to pursue our criminal approach, legitimate medical uses for the relief of pain and suffering of patients have been suppressed.

Therefore be it resolved that our society must recognize drug use and abuse as the medical and social problems that they are and that they must be treated with medical and social solutions; and

Further be it resolved that an objective commission be immediately empowered by the President and by Congress to recommend revision of the drug laws of these United States in order to reduce the harm our current policies are causing.

Signature:______________________________________ Date:______________

Name:___________________________________________ Title:______________

Organization:________________________________________________________ said...

It won't work in reality, that's exactly what I consider.