Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pro-jail bond committee created in Tyler

In Tyler, a pro-jail committee will announce itself Monday in support of Smith County's third jail bond ballot in three years, reports the Morning Telegraph:
The "Finally! A Jail Plan We Can Afford Committee" will hold a news conference announcing the formation of its action group in support of the Smith County Jail Bond proposed Nov. 4.

Former jail opposition leader Bobby Curtis and past jail proposition supporter Herb Buie, along with Treasurer Harold Beaird and Campaign Manager Sharon Guthrie make up the committee that will lobby for the passage of the $59 million jail bond.

The press conference will take place inside the Smith County Annex Building Court Room at 200 E. Ferguson 11 a.m. on Monday.
I'd reported earlier on the creation of Tyler's local jail opposition group, the "What part of no don't you understand committee." With nine figures of school bonds also on the ballot in Tyler and a high turnout election with the presidential race on the ballot, I have a hard time imagining how local officials think a jail vote will pass now when it was rejected by 2/3 of the voters two years running.

Tyler District Judge Cynthia Kent predicts the jail will be full on the day it opens because the commissioners court remains too focused on new construction instead of diverting people from jail or processing cases more quickly through the courts. Smith County has created a couple of successful diversion programs in light of recent jail bond rejections, but by all appearances the only way to get them to fully commit to that strategy would be for voters to reject the jail for the third year running. I predict that's exactly what will happen.


Anonymous said...

I smell CEC, formerly known as Civigenics.

Smith County's September population report lists having 41 contract inmates. Assuming these are federal inmates Smith County is holding, other East Texas jails are contracted to house federal inmates. Those 41 inmates can be moved elsewhere.

41 beds is 41 beds. For the same time period, they show 123 inmates housed elsewhere. Get rid of the 41 contract inmates and that figure goes down to 82.

At forty dollars per day, that is a substantial savings.

Another point, it's difficult to understand how Smith County gets a variance from TCJS when they are housing these contract inmates.

And lastly, if I read the report correctly, they were housing 207 misdemeanants. Surely some of these defendants can be ROR or be given 3 for 1 jail credit.

A lot of Texas jail problems are due to mismanagement. Of course, if you are wanting to build a new jail because of overcrowding, it's not very difficult on the part of sheriff office administration to intentionally create the overcrowding problem.

Anonymous said...

Smith County Judges use the jail and it's conditions to force plea bargains with the DA. They set the bail bonds at astronomical levels, the lawyers who make a living in the courthouse know better than to ask for a bail bond hearing, the people charged sit in the jail being bankrupted until they plea to a slightly lesser charge, then the judges get to run on a ticket of being tough on crime.
You can easily get a 200.000.00 bond on a pile of misd. charges in Smith County. And do you think the police will add extra frivolous charges?
Yes we CAN!
It's a mistake to give these people more power.

Anonymous said...

The Tyler School System wants 100 Million plus to expand their failing empire. The Downtown Judges want 100 Million to expand THEIR empire. I would love to see the Mayor and the Commissioners court tell us which empire is more important, or tell us that the Smith County Taxpayers should shell out for both.

Anonymous said...

On any Sunday morning thousands of Tyler’s citizens can be found filling church pews. We are in the Bible belt and I think people who live in Tyler like to believe this is a religious community full of good Christian people. Yet, the Bible tells us that we are to Love our Neighbors. I think that many of the people who fill those church pews have ever thought of the people in the county jail as their neighbors. Yet, they are our neighbors. I find it interesting that such a Bible believing, Christian population puts more effort in to trying to figure out how to lock more of it’s neighbors up than it does in trying to figure out how to help them. That seems awfully hypocritical to me. Honestly, I see very little love for one’s neighbor in this community. I see very little compassion, very little reaching out. I see a lot of people looking down their noses at others.

A lot of the people that end up in jail are simply products of their backgrounds. If you look at the crime ridden neighborhoods they grow up in, the dysfunctional family situations, lack of opportunity, and other factors it’s almost inevitable that some of these people will end up in jail. We need to start intervening before they get their. I know of one local church that recently sent 200 people at one time on an overseas mission trip. That’s great. But what if 200 people spent a week in Tyler trying to help those in bad situations? What could they accomplish with the money it took to fly them to another country?

Did you know there are no church services in the jail in Tyler. Most of the smaller, rural counties around have people who come in and do church services on Sundays in the jail. With the number of churches and church members in Tyler it’s puzzling that no one is providing that service in the jail here. I knew someone who was recently in the jail here for several months. The only church that provided a prison ministry to female prisoners was the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Kudos to them). A church can send 200 people to a foreign country but can’t send anyone to the county jail? Like I said, I see very little love for neighbors in this community. Maybe if some of the large churches in this town would put together some of their vast resources to help keep people out of jail and help those who have been to jail but are trying to straighten out their lives we wouldn’t need to build a bigger jail.

Additionally, there are innocent people going to jail here at a much higher rate than most people would think. We have serious problems with the criminal justice system in this county. We need to start by electing a new DA. One who cares about justice, not one who just wants to lock up as many people as he can for as long as he possibly can. We need a system that cares about helping those that can be helped. It shouldn’t always be just about punishment.

Another big issue is mental illness. Texas is ranks 49th among the states on mental health spending. Yet we incarcerate more people than any other state (except maybe California, I’m not sure). There is a connection between the lack of spending on mental health care and the incarecration rate. In the 70’s a lot of mental institutions were closed. Mentally ill people were supposed to receive community based treatment. The community based programs were underfunded and ineffective. Now, a lot of the people who would have been institutionalized in the past are now in prison receiving very little, if any treatment for their mental illness.

In Texas we incarcerate people at 10 times the rate of communist China. We have more people in prison in Texas than they do in the entire country of Mexico. Smith county’s incarceration rate is one of the highest in Texas.

We have serious problems with our criminal justice system that need to be addressed. The poster above who commented about excessive bonds was right. One judge in particular works hand in hand with the DA's office. That's not how it is supposed to work. Bond is to be used to secure a person's appearance at trial, not as punishement or to keep somebody in jail simply because that is what the DA's office wants.

The people of Smith County need to start demanding better from the DA's office and some judges. Building bigger jails and more prisons isn’t the answer.

Anonymous said...

Another option would be for the DA's office to implement the law passed by the legislature last year that allows citations to be issued for Class B Misdemeanors. The last comment I read in the paper from the Smith County DA's office indicated that our DA was not smart enough to figure out how to implement something like that. Other counties have done it. Maybe our DA needs to call one of those counties and get them to give him some direction on how the law could be implemented. Of course, in order for Matt Bingham to understand they would probably need to speak very slowly and not use any big words.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to see an audit of the money spent (or not spent) on maintaining the current jail compared to the work that was actually done. The current jail wouldn't be in the condition it were in if it had been properly maintained.

Anonymous said...

It is the County Commissioners fault that the jail is overcrowded to begin with. Read the current front page of: href=""> Jeffersonian I think that you are right about the hat trick.

W W Woodward said...

Anon 08:54,

Those 41 beds holding federal prisoners are making somebody money, more money than it's costing the county to have another facility hold the 123 Smith County inmates.

It hasn't taken Sheriffs and Commissioners very long to figure out they can buy more road grader blades if they hold federal prisoners and farm out their county inmates.

Anonymous said...

WW got close to the hitting the nail on the head. Somebody is making money. None of the projects are about bettering the community, they are about power and greed. The question is why did "Former jail opposition leader Bobby Curtis" change his mind?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Woodard,

123 inmates at $40 per day per inmate is costing Smith County $4920 a day, and this does include the cost to have to transport these inamtes to and from the various holding facilities.

41 federal inmates at $50 a day per inmate is $2050 a day.

How is this making money for Smith County?

The point I was trying to make is to free up the 41 beds and put the Smith County inmates in those beds. They are not make money of these contract inmates.

You can make an open records request to see where the income goes that is generated from these contract inmates being held at Smith County.

I don't live in Smith County and don't have a dog in the fight. I do know something about contract inmate programs though. And I do know somethiong about running a jail in a fiscally conservative manner.

Anonymous said...

The Daily Sentinel

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Congratulations to Nacogdoches County and County Judge Joe English on winning a state-wide best practice award for a project to expedite the processing of paperwork jail inmates.

The "paper-ready project" drastically reduced the amount of time inmates remained in the county jail, awaiting transfer to state prison or other facilities following sentencing.

The program earned Nacogdoches County the 2008 County Best Practice Award from the Texas Association of Counties Leadership Foundation during their annual conference last week.

Although he didn't create the program, English deserves the credit for it's implementation, as it was created by the National Institution for Corrections and SFA at his request.

English also deserves an award from Nacogdoches County taxpayers, who stand to save some $250,000 a year, due to the program. That's about how much the paper-ready project is estimated to save the taxpayers every year, by reducing the amount of time it takes to process paperwork.

Before the program was instituted, inmates who had been sentenced spent more than a month — an average of 36 days, awaiting transfer to another facility. The backlog was such that prisoners had to be farmed out to other jails, at a cost of $40 per day, or some $250,000 a year. The money that was going to other counties is now being used to make improvements to the jail, pay increases and new computer systems.

While English can't take the credit for developing the program, which has cut the wait from 36 days to 2, he deserves the credit for doing some "out of the box" thinking to find a solution to overcrowding at the jail.

Before English took office, the jail population was consistently over the maximum every day. Not content to merely address the symptoms, English sought out the root cause of the problem.

As it turned out, the solution was much simpler, and less costly, than building a bigger jail — a solution that quite likely wouldn't have been found. A justice department assessment of our county judicial system, which was made at the county's request, revealed some areas where improvements were needed. English took it a step further to enlist resources available at SFA and the NIC to find some practical solutions.

TAC Leadership Foundation Chairwoman Carol Autry noted that "people in counties across Texas are coming up with such creative solutions.

We're fortunate to have one of them here.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say the $40 dollar a day per inmate cost does not include transporting costs.