Monday, July 13, 2009

Odds and Ends

While I'm distracted today by a family tragedy piled on top of other scheduled duties, I wanted to point out a few recent news stories that deserve Grits readers' attention which might merit further commentary if I had more time or ability to focus:

Harris County Jail commentary
The Harris County Sheriff has a column in the Houston Chronicle today that's filled with catch phrases and feel-good commentary, but for the life of me I can't tell what position Sheriff Adrian Garcia is trying to take. The piece is full of odd statements like, "Programs to release inmates early must provide for the ability to monitor them to the end of their sentences," even though the Harris Jail's overcrowding problem stems primarily from pretrial detention, not sentenced offenders. He also failed to suggest solutions to increased jail overcrowding caused by expanded immigration detention.

Scarce little of what Garcia had to say suggested solutions for the main causes of overcrowding at the Harris Jail - too many inmates awaiting trial and too few guards to watch them. A recent Forbes magazine article on "America's Jail Crisis" points out that, "A stunning 25% of Harris County's annual $1.5 billion budget goes to law enforcement, with more than $750,000 a day spent on detainees. A shortage of guards means the jail shells out $35 million a year on overtime; some guards are topping out at $100,000 a year in total pay." Garcia called for seeking a "new consensus" on pretrial detention for nonviolent offenders, but his suggestions to solve the problem via "monitoring technology for ankle bracelets" would require substantial increased staffing the Sheriff doesn't have.

GOP won't go after Craig Watkins
Reporting on a conversation with the Dallas County GOP party chair, Dallas News columnist Gromer Jeffers says that "unless Ronald Reagan rises from the grave, Republicans won't recruit a candidate to run against District Attorney Craig Watkins ."

Webcams a waste on Mexican border
Governor Perry's much-ballyhooed webcam project on the Texas border has been a colossal flop, reported the El Paso Times:
In its first full year, the camera Web site drew more than 39 million hits and caught the attention of national and international media.

But interviews and reports the El Paso Times obtained indicate the nearly 125,000 "virtual Texas deputies" registered on the site led law enforcement to just eight drug busts and 11 arrests.
Feds fund reentry project for returning TYC youth in San Antonio
According to the San Antonio Business Journal:

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $2.9 million grant to the Texas Youth Commission on a new initiative that will provide support services to 450 youth returning home from correctional facilities.

The new program will create what organizers are calling a “one-stop shop” for juvenile offenders, who will receive job counseling, education support, life-skills classes, mentors and community service opportunities.

The Texas Youth Commission is joining the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and San Antonio-based BCFS on this partnership. The grant will establish the program for 18 months with an opportunity to renew. BCFS will hire 31 new staff to work closely with the youth and oversee the curriculum.

These services will be offered at a downtown Youth Transition Center operated by BCFS. The center will house all transitional services including, employment strategies, case management, classes to help students earn their high school diploma or GED as well as training courses on non-violent methods for conflict resolution.

How accurate is visual memory?
CBS' 60 Minutes updated a story from March on the question of "How accurate is visual memory?" Those who make it all the way through the lengthy piece will be rewarded with excellent accounts of experiments by leading national experts exposing flaws with traditional police lineup procedures.

Improving forensic science
Peter Neufeld of the national Innocence Project argues in the Tennessean that a national forensic science institute is needed that would "stimulate research, develop best practices and set national standards for forensic work; help secure funding for forensic science programs; and provide guidance on how forensic test results should be conveyed to police, prosecutors, judges and juries."

Prisoners training psych service dogs
Prison programs have trained dogs for the blind and disabled, but according to the Wall Street Journal, now some military vets are benefiting from prison-trained "so-called psychiatric-service dog[s], a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional."


Anonymous said...

So sorry about your niece and the others Grits. Prayers and kind thoughts to you and yours. Please keep us updated.

Anonymous said...

My prayers are with you and your family...

Anonymous said...

Our thoughts are with you. We wish you and yours all the best in this trying time.


Hook Em Horns said...

Prayers for you and your family Scott.

Anonymous said...

Scott, you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. Best wishes


Red Leatherman said...

Visualizing simple healing in my prayers for your niece and the others on the bus.

Unknown said...


So very sorry to hear about your family situation. Please do keep us posted as to your niece's progress. My thoughts are with you and your family.


Anonymous said...

The Harris County jail is ripe for the picking. They are well aware of all the parolees and probationers that they have to lock up for no real good reason, however nobody has the nuts to say no to the judges and the state parole.

All of you people on the left side of the isle need to bring more heat on the criminal justice system that force feeds the jail. The cops are just doing what they are ordered to by the CJ system.
The court systems seem to be the only ones who escape the heat.