Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Committees rounding out interim charge hearings

Though the legislative session hasn't officially begun, tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 13) is a busy day for legislative committee action on criminal justice topics. At 10 a.m., the Senate Criminal Justice Committee will round out its ambitious interim agenda with a public hearing on three critical topics:
Interim Charge 1: Determine how private prisons are complying with state laws and how cost, safety, living conditions and rehabilitative services at private prisons compare with state-run facilities. Include an assessment of the staff turnover rates and compensation of private contractors when compared with state-operated facilities, and of the contract bidding processes used by the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Interim Charge 4: Monitor the implementation of the new and expanded programs provided to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) within the Fiscal Year 2008 and 2009 budget, and identify their impact on the criminal justice populations. Study security issues within TDCJ, including staffing issues, use of lock down procedures, the control and containment of infectious diseases and the introduction and control of contraband within the institutions. Review the use of career ladders for employees of TDCJ and issues surrounding the retention of professional corrections staff. Study the issues of independent oversight of TDCJ, including the use and effectiveness of the TDCJ ombudsman system. Provide recommendations for the reduction or elimination of barriers to an effective corrections system.

Interim Charge 9: Review the processes for re-entry of criminal offenders into communities. Identify barriers to the successful return to law-abiding behavior, including the absence of employment opportunities created by restriction on obtaining certain state occupational licenses. Provide recommendations for improvements to our current statutes governing this matter.
All fascinating and important stuff. In addition, two of the three interim study topics on the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee, which meets tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., also relate to topics frequently discussed on this blog:
1. Examine the current Texas jury system. Consider possible changes to enhance the jury experience and increase citizen participation on juries.

2. Examine the current Texas court system, including its complex layers of trial courts with overlapping and varying jurisdiction. Consider whether the system needs modernization to improve judicial efficiency.
Before session starts, these commitees will be issuing interim reports recommending legislative solutions to problems they're now assessing, so what we're hearing at these events may be a preview of debates over specific bills in these same committees in just a few months.

Go here on Thursday morning to watch the hearings live.


Anonymous said...

Scott, will you be testifying at this?

There should be some powerful family testimony on the private prison charge.

- bob

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'll be in House Judiciary first testifying on behalf of the Innocence Project of Texas, but I thought I'd drop by the Senate hearing when I'm done.

Anonymous said...

"enhance the jury experience"

This is an SNL skit, right? Just as the local flood people describe such as an 'out of banks experience', we're now treated to psycho babble regarding the nature of jury service.

Personally, I regularly enhance the voir dire experience of judges, defense bar and prosecutors via pointed, numerous and equal opportunity questions.

Have been a member of just one jury on a piddling criminal case over the years, am sure that my queries guarantee I'll not be chosen but that I will spend the entire day at the courthouse anyway, and frankly am so tired of the bs put out by judges who deny nullification exists, incompetent defense lawyers and arrogant prosecutors and prosecutrixes that I resolve to enhance my enhancement of their experiences going forward.

Gimme a break.

Anonymous said...

Give Juror's a time frame of a couple of days and call them when and if you need them. Save a lot of waiting around.

After all, Juror's are part of the local community, most can get to the Court House within an hour or two. Why wait around all day just to discover you weren't needed, after all.