Friday, February 19, 2010

Dallas, Sugarland locals to TDCJ: Move, please

I mentioned in the last post that local political interests wanted to close the Central Unit in Sugarland, but neglected to add that the Dawson State Jail in downtown Dallas similarly stands in the way of development the city would like to promote along the Trinity River. The Dallas News reported in December 2008:

"The [state] jail is sitting right in the middle of the biggest development project in our city, so we've got to do something," Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said.

But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which owns the facility, has never relocated a jail at a city's request.

"Those are beds we need," said agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. "Absent the Legislature's direction, we have no plans to move this jail."

So those are at least two state-owned units which would likely face little local opposition if the state decided to close them. The Dawson state jail is in the district of soon-to-be-former state Rep. Terri Hodge, who opposed moving it largely because of where they proposed to build the new one. But if the state simply reduced capacity overall, there'd be no problem with siting a new facility.

I've long thought it'd be relatively easy for the Lege to take pressure off state jails, in particular, if they'd accept the bipartisan recommendation from Houston judges to reduce less-than-a-gram drug crimes to Class A misdemeanors (a suggestion then-House Corrections Chairman Ray Allen first proposed back in 2003, and which in more recent years has been championed by state Rep. Harold Dutton). If they did so, it'd be possible to close the Dawson State Jail, boost economic development in downtown Dallas, and contribute immensely to long-term budget savings across the board.


gravyrug said...

Dawson is a horrid place. I've visited, and the staff is the worst I've seen in the system. Medical treatment for inmates there consists primarily of ibuprofen and antihistamines. It should be closed for quality reasons as much as for business development.

Anonymous said...

How's about the city of Dallas invoking eminnent domain on the state of Texas? :)

Anonymous said...

Dallas budget meeting showed that they are paying (Morris Architects) to develop cost analysis of relocating dawson sj.

Believe it is 13k up to 26k and that was a Jan 2010 meeting.

Anonymous said...

If local politics were not involved the Huntsville Unit (AKA: The Walls Unit) would have closed years ago.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Sugar Land wants to close the jails and buy the land so they can expand their now small, private plane only airport, to a very large private airport. Those jails are in the way of what would be a very long runway and an airport larger than Houston's second largest landlocked airport Hobby. This has not been covered by local media as much as it should have. Sugar Land interestingly annexed around the area with neighborhoods with money but excluded nearby neighborhoods where folks don't make as much money as the annexed people do. I would hope when it comes to voting on this expanded airport, those living nearby in the flight path will raise hell and vote it down. They need to start raising hell now. Thanks Grits for getting the ball rolling.

Mike Howard said...

Reducing <1g cases to Class A misdemeanors would be a great thing (hell, prosecutors in Dallas already effectively reduce a lot of them to the same via reductions based on sec. 12.44(a) or (b) of the Penal Code). Perhaps a 3 <1g convictions = a third degree felony would be a better system.

Sadly, I don't see the Lege going this way even though the vast bulk of these offenders are nonviolent drug users who need treatment.

That raises an additional problem though - if a <1g case was just a misdemeanor, judges wouldn't have adequate time to get folks good treatment via probation. A misdemeanor can only carry up to 2 years probation (whereas a state jail felony can carry up to 5 years). In house treatment usually lasts anywhere from 3 months to 9 months, but followup care can drag on and on. So this idea - while a good way to reduce state jail overcrowding - could end up hurting the rehabilitation effort.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Mike, most treatment programs don't last anywhere close to two years. I don't see that as a big problem.

Anonymous said...

We are fooling ourselves about the concept of treatment. Treatment attempts to change the thinking, behavior and values of those enrolled (often against their wishes) in a formal treatment program. It is similar to the idea of a conversion (possibly an attempted forced conversion).

The reality is that the thugs in the neighborhood are 20 times more effective in converting members of their community than a professional counselor who lives outside their community is in converting them to a new way of thinking and acting.

Think of the Stockholm syndrome - what percentage of our citizens exist in a permanent state of Stockholm syndrome in which the most aggressive and predatory control the streets and the hearts and minds? For many this syndrome is a life long condition, if not multi-generational.

For all those who wring their hands about the police, the reality is that the very infrequent intervention the police have in many communities is insignificant compared to presence of all the thugs on every street corner. Many of our neighborhoods are held hostage to the ones we are so desperate to release from prison.

To be honest, how soon does a released prisoner revert to his lifelong pattern of thought?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"To be honest, how soon does a released prisoner revert to his lifelong pattern of thought?"

For a research-based answer as opposed to pure supposition, see here.

Anonymous said...

texas needs to quit putting anyone and everyone in prison to make money.thats bull.they make up charges and add shit that is'nt even real to send you to prison.the gov needs to send a poor person to reform texas jail system.after all the poor people are the ones that end up in prison in texas because they get railroaded for anything and everything.but the rich can have the same charge and buy their way out of it.and that is not justice.but texas thinks it is and we the people just stand by and do nothing.why is that?we need to our poor better help than court appointed.and quit acting like they don't matter.and maybethe state would'nt have such hich taxes to pay for the poor people in jails in texas.texas thinks they run shit in the us we need to step up and show them the us runs them.