Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday morning roundup

As I spend time today on working on projects for which people are actually paying me (and thank heavens for them!), here are a few items that might otherwise deserve more detailed adumbration:

Drugging youth convicts
The site Youth Today has a good feature on the use of psychotropic meds behind bars among juveniles, focusing much of the article on Texas Youth Commission chief Cherie Townsend's efforts to reduce the agency's off-label use of anti-psychotic drugs. When Townsend took charge at TYC, 70% of youth taking atypical anti-psychotics had never been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which are the ailments the drugs were created to treat.

Time for a DA's mea culpa
The Corpus Christi Caller Times editorial board says Adan Muñoz, the head of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, deserves an apology after the Sheriff and Nueces District Attorney tried to pursue him on criminal charges for publicly revealing problems at the county jail.

A plan to redress false convictions
AP reports that the Innocence Project of Texas this week "unveiled a four-point plan designed to ferret out possible wrongful convictions caused by the use of such science: They are offering to assist law enforcement agencies in reviewing cases, file litigation involving such cases, bring appropriate cases to the science commission and offer a reform plan to the Texas Legislature."

We'll get around to it
Understaffing at the Houston PD crime lab is causing trial delays, as well as the processing of a backlog of 2,000 untested rape kits going back to 1994.

The rational choice
DWI offenders in Bell County are choosing jail over probation. "'If I were a defense attorney, I would urge them to do it,' said County Attorney Rick Miller. 'We're not talking about rich people getting picked up for DWIs.'" See related, recent coverage.

Dialogue on de-incarceration
The Texas Tribune published an interview today with Ana Yañez Correa, who is executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

'Texting bans: Scourge of the Roadways!'
Via Radley Balko, "Laws banning texting while driving actually may prompt a slight increase in road crashes, research out today shows." A possible reason: "drivers try to evade police by lowering their phones when texting, increasing the risk by taking their eyes even further from the road and for a longer time."

How to prevent more murdered Mexican journalists?
The more accounts I read of Mexican journalists being murdered, the more I think the US intelligence apparatus should embrace the idea of open-sourced intelligence so reporters aren't massacred for revealing information both the government and the cartels already know.


Anonymous said...

I recall the author of "Raped by The State" documenting how youth were in a stupor much of their time in school and on their dorms. There was a sense of sadness and shame that so many youth were moving about in a trance, initiated by the state, to provide for 'better control'.

Don Dickson said...

When clients used to tell me they'll take the jail time instead of probation I looked at them kinda fish-eyed and thought to myself "eww, you're really scummy." Not any more. In many cases it's become the completely rational thing to do. Probation has become the you-gotta-be-kidding-me choice....a year or more of fees and classes and conditions and peeing-in-the-cup and appointments and what-not, versus two-or-three-long-weekends-and-I-can-be-done-with-this-s--t....

One caveat, at least here in Travis County, if you do your time on the weekends the sheriff's website will show you as a current inmate 7 days a week until your time is served. I had one client who had difficulty finding a job because of this: a potential employer would do a background check and it would show that the guy was a current TCJ inmate. I'm surprised nobody called the cops on him. "Yes, 9-1-1? I've got a guy here applying for a job and it says here he's supposed to be in jail...."

Prison Doc said...

Great smorgasbord of articles Grits but sorry you couldn't give more attention to the Drugged Youths issue. I think this is one of the major problems in criminal justice...and in communities too. Inaccurate diagnoses, inappropriate and excessive prescribing, shoddy psychiatry all work together to keep people with substance abuse problems all drugged up while in jail as well as in the community before they get arrested or rearrested. People who are taking psychoactive drugs incorrectly or unnecessarily might as well be using the street drugs themselves--it is still drug abuse!

Anonymous said...

No matter what crime these youth have committed, it is not right to have them in an institution acting like zombies. They are bullied, provoked into fights and treated inhumanely while being overdosed. I don't like working around youth under these tragic conditions.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Prison Doc, I agree, but I simply had work for paying clients and time was the factor. I may revisit the topic, but until then, the Youth Today article was quite extensive and contains a significant section on Texas, so I strongly encourage everyone to read the whole thing. Here's a money quote from the article for those who didn't click through:

“Fifty years ago, we were tying kids up with leather straps, but now that offends people, so instead we drug them,” says Robert Jacobs, a former Florida psychologist and lawyer who now practices psychology in Australia. “We cover it up with some justification that there is some medical reason, which there is not.”

FWIW, I didn't know Youth Today before I started covering juvie stuff on Grits, and I still admittedly don't read the publication regularly, but much of what I see from them is well-done, often based on mostly primary sources where it's clear the reporter did their own research (I despise faux "balanced" he-said, she-said news coverage), and they take on hard topics like this one that I don't see frequently covered elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The tyc has been drugging kids verifiably since 1948. My Gatesville blog has me communicating with alumni as far back as then.
It was easy during my time, you went and told a meshugana guy named Dr Smith, who seem to wear his bifocals upside down, your were anxious and next thing you knew you were on the medication wagon four times a day for melireal. Dorm man would call medication for the retardation and we would line up go to the yard then they would trot us up to the infirmary.
I was at tyc when they moved from hand cuffing to the wall and beating us to tying us down with leather straps to a bunk that had been outfitted with ply board in lieu of the springs. They had a more difficult time beating us while strapped to the ply board bead. Today’s restraint chair looks pretty harmless. On the other hand I would prefer the ass whopping from several red necks while hanging on the wall than having to listen to some slaves off spring wagging their tong at me for hours on end. Verbal abuse is so much more damaging than physical abuse. I was there when tyc had to transition into that as well.
Sheldon tyc#47333

Anonymous said...

The cost of probation is not the only thing that a defendant considers. It is also the many conditions judges impose the sometimes wierd decisions by a judge.

On 9-30-10 Bexar County Drug Court Judge Ernie Glenn surprised a lot of people in his court room. He ordered a Probation Officer to take a defendant to the defendant's home and to destroy drugs and drug paraphernalia in the defendant's home. This probably made the defendant wonder what he got himself into.

Probation Officers are simply not trained to enter a home where drugs are known to be stored. Police do this with many armed officers and a lot of backup.

To make things worse probation administration approved of the plan for a probation officer to destroy the drugs.

Why would the judge and probation administration place an officer in physical danger and in danger of breaking the law?

The probationer is probably rethinking his choice to be placed on probation. But I am sure he is delighted he was not charged with another felony for drug possession or even worse drug sales.

Anonymous said...

One cannot text and drive in our free country OR ELSE... has anyone taken a good look inside the police cruisers lately? full computers and other gadgetry which is used while parked during a routine search and seiz... oops, traffic stop.... HOWEVER.. and a big however... they are used to check out that license plate of yours and that is done while in motion? it's not any different than the texting issue and neither is safe but one gets in deep kaka while the other gets to say it's part of the job....

We are getting so frickin' stupid as a society in record time...hell, in DOG YEARS