Monday, December 08, 2014

Houston chief says war on drugs a failure, and other stories

Here are a few items which deserve Grits readers attention as my own is focused for the moment outside the blog.

Houston police chief: War on drugs a 'miserable' failure
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland on Friday called the war on drugs a "miserable" failure and suggested political attitudes have sufficiently shifted, even in Texas, to the point where altering marijuana laws could happen "soon." He declared that "people are beginning to think about this issue differently, and they know that we've got to do something different than what we're doing."

Prison doc: death by natural causes; ME: homicide
The Lubbock Avalanche Journal recently reported that "Six Montford Psychiatric Unit detention officers have not been reprimanded after using force to restrain a 63-year-old inmate who died shortly after the incident earlier this year." The episode may involve a coverup. The paper investigated "after a Lubbock County medical examiner’s ruling this fall contradicted previous rulings by the state." "A Montford doctor originally reported McCoin’s death as natural" but a Lubbock medical examiner declared the case a "homicide."

'Bad traffic law has to go'
The San Antonio Express-News had an editorial calling for abolition of the Driver Responsibility Surcharge.

Jail phones profit from a 'Captive Audience'
The Dallas Observer recently ran a cover feature on Securus and the rise of privatized jail phone service and video visitation at Texas county jails. The topic will be familiar to Grits readers but the coverage was thorough and reaches a new, different audience, one hopes, than this stodgy old blog.

Newspaper calls for mental health investments
The Houston Chronicle editorial board called for construction of a new state mental hospital in the Houston area. According to the paper, "When the Neuropsychiatric Center at Ben Taub Hospital in the Texas Medical Center is out of room, our law enforcement professionals must drive around in their squad cars with people suspected of mental illness, waiting for a bed to open up or looking for an alternative. This happens not infrequently, according to mental health professionals." They also complained of a shortage of competency restoration beds and the aging and outdated Rusk State Hospital, which is a three hour drive from Houston.

Juvenile justice and the arts
Ronnie Sanders, who serves on the Texas Commission for the Arts, wrote a column praising a Bexar County juvenile diversion program with remarkably low recidivism rates in which "Students who have often resorted to violence in the past are taught methods of conflict resolution through writing, acting, team-building and communication skills." Says Sanders, "We should all celebrate when people can be earnestly reformed through the arts," and "we should seek more opportunities and increase funding that could allow more young Texans to transform their criminal past into a life sentence of positive choices and a realization of their potential as a contributing citizen to Texas."

News flash: Crime labs screw up outside of Texas, too
The Jonathan Salvador fiasco was one of five recent misconduct scandals at U.S. crime labs described in this article from Chemistry World. Can you guess the other four? Perhaps, in the near future, Grits will compile Texas' own top five. Hard to believe we only got one in a national top five list on this topic; author Rebecca Tragle should Google "Houston police crime lab scandal" for the granddaddy of them all in Texas.

No way feds reimburse Texas on border security
Texas' request to the feds for reimbursement for the Great Border Security Boondoggle is a laughable exercise in hubris. Given that, IMHO, the entire spending program serves no real security purpose but instead is a political expenditure aimed at snubbing the Obama Administration, why would the feds ever consider paying for it. They're basically asking them to pay for an extended, years-long Rick Perry campaign commercial.

Ten predictions about police bodycams based on experience with dashcams
Having been deeply involved more than a decade ago in the effort to get dashcams in police cars in Texas, I find the description of their effects from The Atlantic to be fairly accurate. However, I disagree that past is entirely prologue when it comes to bodycams, which IMO may have greater deterrent effects for police misconduct because they're recording personal interactions, not just views from a distance. Time will tell. In practice, they support officers stories more often than contradict them and make report writing more accurate. There's as much incentive for police to adopt them as for reformers to support them.

Advice for 1Ls and lawmakers: Don't make laws you wouldn't kill to enforce
Yale law prof Stephen Carter in a recent column offered sound advice to law students that goes double or triple for lawmakers: "On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you."


Anonymous said...

Their should be a parole bill this session that would allow all parole eligible offenders in Texas illegally be released to the Feds. If Washington doesn't want to pay Texas to house illegal aliens in prison, then turn them over to the Feds. Their are over 6,000 offenders in TDCJ that are here illegally. Parole them, if they get deported, as a condition of their parole make illegal reentry a violation. If they return to Texas send them back to TDCJ for a few months and parole them back to the Feds. Texans Should not be responsible for housing illegal aliens in our Texas prisons.

"Red" Merriweather Coast said...

@Anon: Apparently, that's what we want. We have illegal aliens on death row right now. Housing them is enormously expensive.