Saturday, October 18, 2014

Waste in the justice system? Say it ain't so!

Do you have stories of government waste?

Texas Public Policy Action, a 501c(4), is collecting stories of government waste through next Friday Oct. 24, with the top suggestion receiving $4,000. All suggestions will be compiled into an anthologized publication on waste that will be delivered to legislators offices next session. See Big Jolly's blog for more detail.

Offhand, at the municipal level I think of wasteful spending on police officers covering false residential burglar alarms, which account for 10-12 percent of patrol calls in most Texas departments.

At the state level, offhand, there's over-incarceration of nonviolent drug and property offenders and elderly offenders from decades ago who can't make parole and cost the state a small fortune in medical bills. (The advent of life without parole will exacerbate that trend in the future, though for the most part people who committed violent offenses aren't getting paroled now.)

The Driver Responsibility surcharge generates revenue for hospitals but at the expense of county courts, jails, local police, and especially drivers who must pay the externalities from this ill-conceived project.

Use the comment section to suggest areas of waste in the criminal justice system, and see the full contest rules if you're interested in entering.


Anonymous said...

The interesting thing about alarm responses is that the officer/deputy, in many communities, isn't doing anything else at the time of the response. Nor would they be doing anything else (other than playing Crush on their phone while sitting in an air-conditioned SUV) if they didn't respond.

For example, I live in a community of 800 plus homes with 5 contract deputies patrolling the neighborhood. Their job is to patrol the streets and be a visible presence. That's it. An alarm literally breaks the monotony of cruising.

We also are fined by the department if we have an "excess" of responses to false alarms which means that faulty systems are repaired or replaced.

Point is, every community is different and alarms aren't necessarily a waste unless they are preventing an officer from doing something else of greater consequence. And in many communities they really aren't doing something else and aren't going to.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If that's the case, 8:32, and 99% of alarms are false (with few people caught even in "real" burglaries), that argues for reducing staffing at your PD, not subsidizing a few alarm company customers.

As a practical matter, though, it's an argument for retarding expansion of police departments. Check your local newspaper's clip files re: whether your department claims it needs more officers at budget time? If the answer is yes, verified response (making the alarm company check verify a crime was committed before police are sent out) is a method to get more officers on the street doing productive tasks without raising taxes, hiring more cops, etc..

Anonymous said...

The timing of this article couldn't have come at a better AND worse time. We are contesting the surcharge bill, and encourage public involvement: Contact Chairman Joe Pickette @ 915-590-4349 and co-chairman Allen Fletcher 281-373-5434 and voice your displeasure with this ridiculous and unconstitutional law (double jeopardy.

OTOH, there was a murder at the Bookhaven Youth Ranch (a youth was murdered by another youth is what's alleged) that deserves attention with regard to juvenile incarceration - facts are still unknown but somehow someone dropped the ball. Google search news for the media report.

Lee said...

A waste of resources....

How about the time several years back when a death row inmate attempted suicide and they life flight him out to UTMB to save his life only to end it several months later....?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Lee, given federal court restraints regarding provision of inmate health care, of which I'm sure you're aware, what policy could TDCJ or the Lege adopt that would have eliminated that waste? They've got a duty to treat. Who gets to make the decision not to treat urgent, life-threatening medical needs?

Tim Cole was innocent and, though not sentenced to death, died in prison from complications stemming from an untreated asthma attack. His jailers thought him guilty but they were wrong. Are you saying, had he been on death row, they'd have been right to let him die?

None of us can tell the future. What if instead of someone killed a few months later it was Manuel Velez, Kerry Cook, Anthony Graves, or somebody else who would later be released and/or exonerated? How can the caregivers making such decisions know who is guilty or innocent? In your mind, who makes that call and based on what grounds?

Anonymous said...

If you want to save huge amounts of money, legalize small amounts of drugs, legalize prostitution, stop sending cops to unverified alarms, stop sending them to fender benders, stop sending them to basic report calls (car theft, BMV, thefts, etc), decriminalize class C traffic offenses, and require sport team owners to pay for all traffic control on game days or for events.

As far as not going to unverified alarm calls, some criminals have caught on to this for certain types of businesses like cell phone sellers and such. The local authorities in Houston have downgraded burglar alarm calls called in by companies and refuse to send a cop if there is no alarm permit unless it is a panic alarm. Yet, when you mention this at civic club meetings, the first response by those present is to shake their collective heads and literally demand sending a patrolman, preferably as fast as the winds will allow. All the statistics and facts are against it but that is what the people want so you can be unresponsive to what taxpayers want if job security is not on your list of priorities.

Anonymous said...

Just read Nell Burnstein's Burning Down the House, and more convinced than ever that each incarcerated juvenile in our current setup is costing taxpayers now and later at an alarming rate for the return on investment.