Here are a few stories that have been backing up this week while I've been focused elsewhere:
New kid on the block
Scott Greenfield sings the praises of Harris County's new Public Defender, Alex Bunin, and Mark Bennett assures us he's hopeful. The most difficult part of this job after hiring the best possible staff will be remaining politically independent (not in a partisan sense but as its own bureaucratic entity wedged between multiple, existing institutions) while procedurally and budgetarily reliant on judges and the commissioners court, respectively. Or as Bennett put it, "A good Public Defender will be willing to stand up to Commissioners’ Court." See the Houston Chronicle's coverage. Good luck to you, Alex. MORE (Nov. 14): See a related editorial from state Sen. Rodney Ellis.
Purge records or be fired?
Yikes! "The former head of Galveston police internal affairs said on Friday that he was placed on administrative leave after he questioned an order to turn over or destroy records of his investigation of Chief Charles Wiley." Here's the local coverage.
Things that make me want to hit myself in the head with a gavel
Dallas DA Craig Watkins allegedly fired two line prosecutors because they attended the election-night party of his Republican opponent. This follows in line with what Dallas News columnist James Ragland wrote after the election, that "critics and supporters alike will tell you that Watkins squandered some of the goodwill he's fostered through his admirable work with the Texas Innocence Project by picking too many public fights. His Smart on Crime philosophy, which many applaud, too often was overshadowed by dumb political moves – like getting in shouting matches with commissioners."
Harris County tries civil injunctions on gangs
Reports AP, "The public nuisance lawsuit seeks court orders as part of the establishment of a 57-acre safety zone, around the 700-unit Haverstock Hills apartment complex, to ban gang activity." Here's the part I don't understand: If there are "At least 33 documented gang members suspected of selling drugs," then why not arrest them for selling drugs? Why go after this chickens%$t public nuisance suit?
Reality 1, NIMBY 0
For once I'm glad to read a story about a TDCJ halfway house opening (in Amarillo) as opposed to stories about NIMBY opposition from local pols who should know better. These parolees are for the most part getting soon out anyway, so if there's no halfway house to parole them to, eventually they'll be released directly onto the street with $100 in their pocket and a bus ticket back to Amarillo. Is that preferable?
'Girl At A Glance'
A local writer says a new outlook, tools have TYC's Ron Jackson unit for girls in Brownwood looking and running better and behavioral referrals down by a third. Further, "A shift from the business/professional boundaries style approach to more supportive and more personal roles is being implemented within the staff." Hmmmm ... folks from Brownwood, let me know how that's going. :) Positive article, overall.
The Girl Next Door
In California, "A statewide task force set up in the wake of the Jaycee Dugard case recommends repealing a voter-approved ban on registered sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children 'regularly gather,' saying the restriction has led to a dangerous 24-fold increase in homelessness among sex offenders."
State sentencing policies implicated by budget crisis
From Business Week, "Arizona's budget troubles could prompt lawmakers to seriously consider changing criminal sentencing laws to reduce or slow the costly growth of the state's prison population."