Thursday, June 20, 2013

Off to SA: Stuff to read while I'm gone

Grits is headed out soon to participate on a panel this afternoon at the national Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, which is being held this week in San Antonio. I'm looking forward to it: Mike Ward from the Austin Statesman, Jessica Pupovac from NPR, and Kirk Mitchell from the Denver Post are the other panelists for my session, which is focused on prisons and criminal justice coverage. And if the Spurs pull off the upset and win the NBA championship, it'll be a fun night to be in San Antonio. Probably picking with my heart and not my head but IMO the Spurs will bounce back, 98-94.

Otherwise, here are a few items that caught Grits attention but likely won't make it into their own posts:

Brooks County to feds: No pay, no prosecute
Thanks to a commenter for pointing out this McAllen Monitor story  which reported that Brooks County has been refusing drug cases from the Border Patrol checkpoint at Falfurrias since 2010. The local DA stopped taking the cases "because of a debt dispute with the Justice Department involving a long-running program that reimburses border-state prosecutors for the cost of pursuing some drug offenders." The funding cut has indeed been precipitous, reported the Monitor: "Getting money for the reimbursement program has been an annual fight. The funding reached $31 million in 2011 but fell to $10 million in 2012 combined with similar efforts along the northern border." Hudspeth County is considering following Brooks' lead.

Muppet struggles with jailed parent
Pretty cool that Sesame Street created a muppet with a parent in jail to try to address the specific struggles facing those kids. But with one in 28 American children with an incarcerated parent (source), perhaps they should include him in the show instead of only in an online tool kit.

'Odd wife out'
Simple Justice has a good post on the struggles facing families of the falsely convicted and the limitations of financial compensation for the harms done by imprisoning the innocent, focusing on the depressing case of Texas exoneree Steven Phillips and a suit for a portion of his innocence compensation by his ex-wife.

'Drone journalism'
And so it begins.

New Austin police contract
The Statesman reports ("Police to receive slight pay raises through 2017," June 19) that the new Austin police union contract features MUCH smaller raises than the massive pay hikes they've seen over the last decade, increases which made Austin cops among the highest paid in the country. Summarized Tony Plohetski:
'Prison Grievances,' the comic book?
TDCJ's board will decide on Friday whether to allow a handbook for filing inmate grievances produced in comic book format may be placed in Texas prison libraries. Reported the Austin Statesman's Ken Herman:
“Prison Grievances” is a “graphic novel,” meaning it’s kind of in comic-book format. It’s [Austinite Terri] LeClercq’s effort at translating legalese about the fine points of the inmate grievance filing system into fifth-grade-level language that convicts can understand.

And it’s a darned good effort, one that the Texas Board of Criminal Justice has banned from the prison law libraries.
The business agenda for criminal justice reform
The Texas Association of Business threw its hat in the ring this session on criminal justice topics for the first time. The Texas Tribune has a story on how their new agenda fared.

Lawsuit alleges S. Texas jail abuse
For symmetry, lets end as we started in South Texas: Live Oak County faces litigation over abuses at the jail alleged by two women, said the McAllen Monitor in a brief report. The Houston Chronicle's behind the paywall coverage quoted the lawsuit's allegations that Live Oak guards operated a "rape camp" at the facility.

Back maƱana. Till then, Go Spurs!


Anonymous said...

There's a muppet with a parent in the pokey? A sign of the times? This country's going to Hell in a hand basket, Grits.

Anonymous said...

The new United States of ALEC. We are one of the few countries in the world that places babies and small children in prison. The private prison industrial complex needs to end with real immigration reform and stop locking up people for social problems.

It's cheaper to send someone to drug rehab or use probation instead of prison. Using enhanced probation and using medications such as Antabuse are effective ways to handle DWI's. With probation making sure offenders are in compliance with Antabuse, a person becomes extremely ill just with one sip of alcohol.

Texas has way too many elderly inmates locked up for nonviolent offenses. I never understood why Texas revokes elderly men from nursing homes on technical parole violations for non-reporting and spends thousands of dollars transporting someone with Alzheimer's back to Texas for this technical violation. The guy has Alzheimer's!!!! Of course he failed to report to his parole office....

sunray's wench said...

" that the Texas Board of Criminal Justice has banned from the prison law libraries."

What was their justification for banning that book?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

sw, the board was going to vote on Friday whether to allow it into the regular prison libraries. Don't know how that turned out yet. They earlier said because the author isn't a lawyer it shouldn't be in the law libraries.

Anonymous said...

"Rape Camp"? Now that's a police officer's wet dream come true:

Most people are incredibly uninformed when it comes to sex crimes. They mistakenly believe sex crimes are about sex when nothing could be further from the truth. Sex crimes are about power and control over the victims. And no one in our society desires power and control over others than those who choose careers in law enforcement.

sunray's wench said...

If I win the EuroMillions tonight, I'd send every one of TDCJ's residents a personal copy of the book.

Isn't it comforting how these people make things up as they go along.

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea! Make sure every one of the rapists, murderers, and child molesters has a way to fight the system. Can't hurt, right? I'm sure the officers would love to answer even more B.S. grievances. You think those precious innocent inmates are unhappy not being able to go to rec now, considering officer shortages? You think Texas is going to pay more to hire a better quality officer? Apparently not- and the good bosses that are left have to deal with even more crap every year. It's becoming less and less appealing. It's like the sympathizers only see things from an inmate perspective. If you folks would be a little more objective, you might realize that causing problems for officers and not supporting us financially isn't doing ANYTHING for your cause.

rodsmith said...

well 10:31 when the officer is in the right. i'm glad to support them. When they are wrong. i am also happy to cut them off at the knees!

in this case treating humans as animals. is a no-no and ground to treat the ones doing it the same way.

my brother in law is a corrections officer here in florida. he still tells the story about a new officer who showed up real gung ho. acting like an ass throwing his so-called weight around. even going so far as to go under bunks after lights out with a ruler to measure the location of the boots and pasing out rightups. dumb shit did it enough that eventualy some of them caught his ass in one of the back areas and put his ass in the hospital for about 3 months.. For some reason he never came back!

All i could say was GOOD for them!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:31, this blog has long supported higher pay for Texas COs. That doesn't mean inmates shouldn't be able to file grievances over legitimate complaints.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:31. I have been going to visitation for close to ten years at one unit and have seen officer misconduct at every visit never fails. Just yesterday as a matter of fact. Officers talked to inmates and their visits like we were dogs. No respect here for me. I know the grievance system is broken on this unit and has never really existed at all. Most grievances are either lost, thrown away, or are covered up with lies. This is one reason why the legislation for this was not pass. You want to see some real ugly secrets go to visitation and that is the tip of the ice-burg. No telling what an independent investigator would see. The unit is the Crain Unit. That reminds me of a tour I had of a Concentration Camp in West-Germany in 1988. Looks and feels the same to me. PURE EVIL! In fact everything about Gatesville, Texas reminds me of that concentration camp, you know the one were the Mayor and his wife went home and hung themselves when the Allies Leaders made them tour it after it was liberated. That is how that whole place looks and the feels. Evil!!!

sunray's wench said...

Anon 10.30 ~ my husband is guilty of the crime he is doing time for, but that does not mean he should not have access to a competent legal system if an officer oversteps his or her authority. If inmates need the procedure spelled out to them by means of a comic book, doesn't that say more about the attitude of the system towards legitimate grievances than it does about the inmates themselves, many of whom are studying at a higher level than the guards watching over them have attained?

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me seeing the use of the word 'legitimate' from Grits and others in replying to my post. This seems to indicate that you folks realize that there are non-legitimate grievances being filed. I don't expect you to believe me, but I am an open-minded person who has a strong sense of fairness. I don't like to see people taken advantage of- I try to do what I can to treat inmates properly... like I'd want to be treated if I were in that situation. The grievances that have been filed against me most of the time did have some truth to them, but were largely lies. It's important to understand that we don't deal with regular people with normal upbringings and respect for right and wrong. These guys don't do things like you'd expect. Prison is a beast, and it changes people, temporarily, and permanently. And the higher the level of custody, the worse the beast is. Inmates on a medium custody pod are in a tougher place with different people around them than those on a minimum pod. They are more likely to be disrespectful and aggressive, and not just on an individual, one on one basis. That beast requires it of them. They can't really afford to lose face to an officer. What I'm trying to say is that these guys aren't real bothered by telling lies in order to cause a boss some problems- and they have, for the most part, a lot of time to scheme. But you can't put too much stock into the words in their grievances. You may have the misconception that these inmates are suffering at the hands of Nazi-esque guards, and maybe that happens, but at my unit I don't see that. I can't speak for other units. I apologize for rambling. I really wish we had more input from people who have worn the uniform. From reading this blog(thank you for it, Grits- especially the drone/surveillance content), I have seen a lot of inmate-sympathetic comments, but not so many from an officer's perspective. There are always two sides to a story/conflict, as you all know. In this instance, you have convicted felons versus correctional officers. Yes, some of the officers misbehave and break the law. I cannot condone or agree with all that is done. But please remember that it is a BEAST, and YOU do not work there. You probably could not work there. And you want better officers and officer conduct, so start doing something about it other than lamenting on a message board. Better pay/conditions for us will translate to better treatment and conditions for your loved-ones. And thank you Grits for supporting higher pay for CO's.

sunray's wench said...

Anon ~ you may not realise this, but many people who have loved ones in prison are the first to say when those inmates have done wrong, should quit whining, and just do their time without causing anyone else any pain. Just as you and other officers hate being tarred with the same "you are all lazy, corrupt babysitters" brush, we too do not like being painted as no-better-than-the-inmates.

Of course there are legitimate grievances, and there are bogus ones.

I think it would be better for an independent body to investigate them from the start, rather than the grievance going to a supervisor of the officer involved. Impartiality should be the key here.