Sunday, December 11, 2011

The perils of community service, the decline of the Juarez funeral industry, and other stories

Here are a few disparate items for Grits readers' Sunday morning reading pleasure:
  • Eyewitness wrong, life sentence overturned: LaDondrell Montgomery was convicted of robbery in Harris County and given a life sentence based on eyewitness testimony and video footage of the incident, but his lawyer figured out after his conviction that he was in jail at the time the offense was committed, reported the Houston Chronicle this week. The conviction was overturned. Mark Bennett points out how the defense lawyer's lack of preparation and poor advice contributed to the problem, noting that the judge called both defense counsel and the yet-to-be-named prosecutor "spectacularly incompetent."
  • Petition for 3 meals at TDCJ: Reports the Laredo Sun, "4,000 people across the country have joined a young woman’s popular campaign on calling on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to stop serving state prisoners only two meals per day on the weekends, and provide them with the three meals recommended by the American Correctional Association." The petition author, whose father is incarcerated in a TDCJ facility, "has launched a second campaign on the popular social action platform calling on the American Correctional Association to uphold its standards and remove ACA accreditation from any prison that does not serve three daily meals to its prisoners."
  • Charging paraphernalia cases in Houston: Check out a coupla new items on the Pat Lykos crack-pipe policy controversy (see Grits' discussions here and here) from Patti Hart and Paul Kennedy. Kennedy also has some questions for Lykos' opponent, Judge Mike Anderson, on the topic, and some criticisms of his view of the judiciary as an arm of law enforcement.
  • Convenient Amnesia: Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle writes about Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson and the benefits of memory lapse.
  • Botched from the beginning: Michael Hall at Texas Monthly looks back on the twenty-year anniversary of Austin's unsolved Yogurt Shop murders, the allegedly coerced confessions contradicted by more recently tested  DNA evidence, and how a "torturous, bizarre, incompetent, and heavy handed" investigation by Austin police botched the case.
  • Bexar jailer, juvie detention officer convicted of sex crimes: A Bexar County juvenile detention officer was convicted on Friday of continuous sexual abuse of a child, though the boy in question was someone he did not know through his job, say news reports. This comes on the heels of recent allegations of sexual assault by a jailer in Bexar's adult jail.
  • Safer on the border, at least on the northern side: "For the second year in a row, El Paso has the lowest crime rate among American cities with populations over 500,000," reports the Texas Tribune. In related news, illegal immigration has plummeted since the economy collapsed.
  • Murder decline harms Juarez funeral industry: I'd have thought everyone would be pleased with the (relative) decline in murders this year in Juarez, the southern sister-city to El Paso which has been the site of the Mexican drug war's most frequent and grisly killing. But the El Paso Times has an odd and somewhat ghoulish feature on how the drop in murders is harming the funeral industry, which for obvious if macabre reasons had been thriving during the worst of the carnage. Talk about a glass-half-empty spin on a story about the number of murders declining! I'm sure the body-bag industry also complains when wars end, but is it news?
  • Demonstrators push reform to school discipline: In Dallas, reports the Morning News (behind paywall), "A group of demonstrators formed a human chain Thursday at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center to push for less severe methods in disciplining students. The newly formed Coalition for Education Not Incarceration is concerned that Dallas ISD students, especially minorities, are too quickly given harsh punishments, such as suspension and tickets that can land them in a courtroom. Coalition members say children put into the criminal justice system at young ages are more susceptible to “the school-to-prison pipeline.” They said some students have been removed from the regular classroom for such minor infractions as dress code violations, cursing and class disruptions. The coalition of 12 local organizations wants DISD trustees to create a task force to review and recommend revisions for the district’s disciplinary system." 
  • The perils of community service: For more than a decade, Dallas has used probationers' community service hours to shred confidential documents, "including psychiatric exams of juveniles, copies of Social Security cards, birth certificates, court records, drug tests, and even medical records." No information or security breaches were ever documented, but the probation department ended the practice after it was criticized in the press. Relatedly, see a story out of Abilene about savings to county departments from jail and probationer work crews, despite a recent escape.
  • Scary but legitimate question of the day: Are Mexico's drug lords "too big to fail"?
  • Lighter side: Check out pics of several vintage Texas courthouses decked out for the holidays.


Anonymous said...

"They said some students have been removed from the regular classroom for such minor infractions as...cursing and class disruptions.."

Yes, that's we have alternative campuses for. It's a good fit for disruptive students who can't control their behavior, and disrupt the education of other students.

FleaStiff said...

Why should those destined for the School To Prison Pipeline be allowed to disrupt the educations of those in the School to Assembly-line Robotic Slave Pipeline?

The teachers became teachers because they like the un-restrained power our society gives them and the teachers have a right to entertain themselves by exercising that power in circumstances that outsiders term "minor". That in itself is the hallmark of educating students so as to be able to deal with the DMV when they are adults.

Anonymous said...

I just love how some parents seem to think their children can behave however they want to in school and not be punished. In my opinion, a lot of the issues regarding alternative school, unwarranted suspensions and so on, could be avoided with the reinstatement of corporal punishment. Unfortunately, that form of discipline is no longer allowed in too many instances. The broader problem is the complete lack of parental support and involvement. If parents aren't willing to invest themselves in their child's education and behavior at school, they darn sure should not be heard to complain about the methods educators employ in controlling their children. School is not just free babysitting. It is a very expensive investment our taxpayers are making into our youth and future workforce. If the deadbeats (and their parents) think they can just drag down all of the rest of the students with them without consequence, I would suggest they have another thing coming.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"In my opinion, a lot of the issues regarding alternative school, unwarranted suspensions and so on, could be avoided with the reinstatement of corporal punishment"

Since most Texas school districts still use corporal punishment, what does that do to your theory, 10:35?

Anonymous said...

Actually, GFB, most Texas school districts require parental consent before they can administer corporal punishment to students. In fact, the Legislature passed a bill this past session which mandates parental consent for corporal punishment in counties with populations of 50,000 or more, I believe. Believe me when I tell you that there are plenty of parents out there who won't discipline their children at home and don't want teachers or school administrators disciplining their children at school. And then they act offended and surprised when their kids are disruptive in class and get placed in alternative school or expelled. It's always amused me that we allow parents to prevent their child from being disciplined at school, but then when the child becomes 17 we can lock that child up in prison without any input from the parent whatsoever. When the child becomes 18, we can give that child the death penalty. Seems to me that whipping their little butts when they're 10 or 12 would be a relatively mild sanction compared to the foregoing. And it would be a whole lot less disruptive of the learning process than placement in AEP or suspension. But what do I know?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:25, if the bill just passed this year restricting spanking, how could it be responsible for so much that happened before it? ... classic straw man.

Some of the worst behaving kids are beaten to the point of abuse as "discipline" (like the 16-year old who videotaped her Aransas County judge-father beating the crap out of her), but don't let reality get in the way of your opinion.

Anonymous said...

Corporal Punishment? Oh, I remember that from my elementary days. Saw it done quite a bit, and was on recieving end once. I was embarrassed! Did it change my behavior? NO! But I made sure not to get caught again! I grew up to a productive college educated working individual who has raised two children who are also productive individuals. Good thing this pipeline to prison didn't apply when I was in school, or I might have ended up in prison today.
Didn't anyone read the part about how many of these children being sent into the criminal justice system have learning disabilities, or have histories of poverty, abuse, and neglect? OH, but by all means beat them with a board, then send them on to prison where they can learn to be really good criminals before they get released! Prison should ALWAYS be a last resort.

Anonymous said...

Nothing teaches respect for the rules like an aggravated assault on a minor by an authority figure.


Anonymous said...

So 12:54 the sociopath brags that he is still bad. Tell us what you did this time. Was it gory? I'm interested.
While you're taken to jail I suggest the system decorate your shackles with Xmas colors and lights. Just the thing to go with the pretty courthouse.