Thursday, June 09, 2016

Risk assessments, visitation, and imaginary prisons

While I'm preoccupied with other matters, including another small video project to be unveiled soon (the last one has been viewed about 100K times now and received nearly 1,000 Facebook shares), here are a number of items which merit Grits readers' attention:

On the risks of risk assessments
Grits' views on risk assessments are still up in the air, or more specifically, situational. I tend to dislike the idea at sentencing (a lot of "future dangerousness" testimony in capital cases has been pure junk) but mind them less for parole boards, whose members by definition make risk assessments with or without a formal instrument. I also mind the idea less for pretrial assessments, when the alternative is to leave folks sitting in jail. But the critique is that risk assessments are inaccurate and discriminatory, and this blogger did a good job compiling links to stories that call them into question, for those interested. This is an important emerging debate among both advocates and criminal justice professionals; I hope it can be had with a tad less vitriol than has characterized the discussion so far. Folks can disagree in good faith here.

In favor of in-person visitation
Check out a cool interview with our pal Jorge Renaud in a publication called The Establishment on the grassroots pushback against elimination of in-person visitation at prisons and jails.

Offender Orientation manual
A new version of the TDCJ Offender Orientation manual came out in April.

Williamson County DAs keep embarrassing local voters
Between John Bradley and now Jana Duty, who was recently disciplined by the state bar, Williamson County voters sure know how to pick reputable DAs! Local leaders this week held a press conference giving her until "sunset" on Friday to resign, though I'm not sure there is legal leverage to bounce her out. Every Texan above a certain age knows of "sundown towns," of which there used to be a few here, but this is the first time I've heard of such an ultimatum aimed at a sitting elected prosecutor.

Imaginary Prisons
An old college buddy, local architect-turned-furniture-maker Mark Maček, turned me on to Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), which led me in turn to this 16-print series of sketches titled "Imaginary Prisons." Awesome.

If you've got a spare $400K or so you could probably buy a copy. I'd like to read the orientation manual for THAT place.


Anonymous said...

I noticed that the Preston E Smith Unit doesn't show in the new orientation manual. Could it be a possibility of a closure?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the blogger who had a plethora of links on Risk Assessment. You gotta love an individual who tries to paint probation as all powerful. Those Risk Assessments are designed to remove any ability of a probation officer to engage in the decision making process at all. For the life of me, I do not understand why it is that folks don't go after those responsible for forcing Risk Assessments down everyone's throats.