Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Open Thread

So long, 2008: At a minimum you gave us no shortage of blogging material and for that I am grateful.

I'm going to take another day off and climb back into the blogging saddle tomorrow. Until then, use this as an open thread to discuss the most important criminal justice topics of the past year. Here's my ad hoc stab at a top ten list of the year's most important criminal justice stories:
  1. Historic malfeasance: The Charles Dean Hood case exposed a judge-DA tryst from a 1991 capital murder trial. The judge, Verla Sue Holland, was later appointed by Gov. Bush to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
  2. The cartel wars in Juarez (El Paso's sister city) claimed more than 1,500 victims while corruption increased on the US side and a Texas Sheriff who received millions in drug-war grants was discovered on a cartel's payroll.
  3. The Great Eldorado Polygamist Roundup
  4. TYC Turmoil: Conservators come and go, then finally a new commissioner
  5. Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal's unlikely fall from grace
  6. Commissary corruption among Sheriffs
  7. Prison staff shortages force closure of wings on two units and contribute to contraband smuggling, including more than 20 different cell phones found on death row
  8. Hurricane Ike destroyed Galveston including the state's main prison hospital which has not been re-opened. UTMB, which ran the hospital, laid off thousands of employees.
  9. DNA-based exonerations continue in Dallas and elsewhere, though the Innocence Project of Texas which provided attorneys in many of these cases was hit hard in the pocketbook by Wall Street fraud.
  10. Big cities going D: Harris County judicial races flip Democratic following a similar shift in Dallas County in 2006, which solidified this year with Sheriff Lupe Valdez's re-election.
The order here is decidedly arbitrary, but those, I think are certainly among the biggest Texas criminal justice stories from 2008. Let me know what you think is missing from the list.

Also, what will be the big issues in 2009? A couple of big ones at the Legislature will surely be:
  • The Sunset Commission's proposal to merge TYC and the Juvenile Probation Commission
  • Prison security: Contraband smuggling, staffing shortages and guard pay.
Perhaps readers can suggest other important issues and trends to watch.

I'm spending the rest of the day with family and friends, so y'all talk among yourselves, thanks for stopping by, and have a happy and fulfilling New Year.

RELATED: See the Austin Chronicle's top ten public safety stories.


Anonymous said...

I think Criminal Justice Reform at the national level may make some headway. See today's NY Times editorial regarding Sen. Jim Webb's (D. Va)call for a national commission to reassess criminal justice policy. About time!

Charles Kiker

Anonymous said...

How about Fitzgerals UA lab in Bexar County.....the lack of any of the judges caring they locked up probationers who were innocent.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Re: Fitzgerald

On my list, that would have been # 11, with Susan Reed killing needle exchange checking in at #12. Both are right up there, though.

Anonymous said...

...even still in '09 the saga of the Houston crime lab is unresolved. Whatever happened to all the fake drugs in Dallas?

Anonymous said...

Texas cannot afford increased pay for prison staff. Money needs to be spent on rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Medical Care for prisoners and TYC cannot be improved without considerable cost.

Something has to give! Increased parole rates and decriminalization of acts where there is no victim are money saving solutions that deserve very careful attention.

Rage Judicata said...

How close did you get?

Anonymous said...

Everyone is still focused just on TYC. THERE ARE ISSUES AT TJPC ALSO PEOPLE. Let's don't forget Sunset Commission saw the need to wipe the slate clean and start over. They see the issues.

Anonymous said...

We all need to pray the Legislature does a good job. Release those from prison who hurt no one and do not deserve to be there. A lot of those in prison have done nothing to hurt anyone, only themselves and have families who desperately need them at home. There are many children who need their parents to be there and for a broken BPP system to allow this to happen makes one wonder just what the people who are on these boards actually do and why. Some, especially those hired have no idea the depth of the hurt they are causing due to their lack of concern for human lives and those of their families.

We got into a broken, hideous mess by the lack of uncaring government personal, elected people who only serve themselves and those who they owe favors to.

Watch the session in Texas this year and remember, you get the chance to unseat the person who only decides to vote for personal favors and not for what is good for all involved.

Help, don't hurt! That should be the motto for the upcoming Legislative session.

Anonymous said...

UT and UTMB are turning down money to rebuild in an unconscionable effort to chase off-island profits. Senator Steve Ogden pointed out the behavior of those in charge in the Texas Monthly.

Also, BEFORE IKE, UTMB quietly stopped treating the indigent.

The result is that health care in Galveston is steadily decreasing to zero--and this from a public institution.

Anonymous said...

I think the nonsense between Commissioner John Wiley Price and the Dallas County Public Defenders Office was an important story. Though a local story, it has implications for any county having a PD's office or contemplating starting one.

Anonymous said...

I think the fact UT was burned and ripped off by the BSC was the biggest crime story in Texas this year. 45-35.

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