Saturday, September 17, 2016

Beating (up) Devon Anderson, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends which haven't made it into independent posts but merit Grits readers' attention:

Beating (up) Devon Anderson
In Harris County, critics are now piling on incumbent District Attorney Devon Anderson, sometimes for things under her control and sometimes not. Texas Monthly compiled examples from the growing litany of allegations which could provide the margin for her defeat in what's expected (by me, anyway) to be a tight November race. As Republican DAs go, I like Devon Anderson. I think she's grown immensely since taking office (under what must have been weird and emotional circumstances). She's a sensible if modest reformer, not some tough-on-crime ogre. But her ouster by a candidate running essentially on a reform platform in the nation's fourth largest city would be significant. And lately, she hasn't done herself any favors.

Shortage of competency restoration beds worst in recent memory
Terri Langford at the Dallas News had an update on the shortage of competency restoration beds at Texas state mental hospitals, a longstanding Grits hobbyhorse. "The number of inmates [on the wait list] has jumped by more than 86 percent in the last 12 months to a record 278 in July. Their average wait time is 149 days." The crisis is now officially the worst its ever been:

Pointing fingers over Austin PD DNA mess
Seeking to take advantage of the ongoing SNAFU at Austin PD's DNA lab, the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association this week alleged that,

Federal statute inhibits Harris County jail reform
A Jimmy-Carter era federal statute explains why the Harris County Jail has been so slow to reduce unnecessary jail deaths, reported the Marshall Project. "[T]he result, at the Harris County jail, which has a population of about 9,000, and at some other large facilities, has been lots of talk, less action and, in some notable cases, scant sustainable improvement." To be fair, Harris County could have addressed these problems without being forced to do so without federal litigation. The failure to do so lies at the feet of the current and former Sheriffs and county commissioners. But it's also a fair point that federal oversight structures have few teeth.

State wants $4-5 million for Dawson State Jail site
The Dallas News reports the state of Texas will ask between $4 and $5.1 million for the old Dawson State Jail facility on the banks of the Trinity River. The city of Dallas hoped to purchase the land as part of its Trinity River redevelopment, raising the question: Will the city or one of its partners pony up that much?

Ranking Texas corrections population compared to cities
Attentive readers may recall Grits has pegged the size of the Texas prison system by declaring that it's larger than the city populations of Waco or Midland. Here's a column and chart establishing precisely where TDCJ's population falls on that scale. Now, if you include all Texans under supervision of the state criminal justice system - in prison, county jails, on probation and on parole - the system would come in 6th, just outdistancing El Paso's municipal population.

Stingray data dump
The Intercept's Sam Biddle reveals the results from the biggest open records haul yet regarding so-called Stingray devices (or, technically, IMSI catchers, see here, here and here) in a must-read piece for anyone interested in electronic surveillance questions. In Houston, notably, local police refuse to share details of the device's use with prosecutors, citing the confidentiality agreement now largely mooted with the release of these documents. Now it's just when, where and why the device is used that they're hiding; the how is out there.

Debate: How best to manage police departments?
This Harvard Business Review article suggested that the best way to manage police departments post-Ferguson is (apparently) to ignore demands from the community for justice and instead myopically hone in on what they dub "organizational justice" as viewed from the perspective of police officers and no one else. Thanks, guys. Advising police administrators to pander to the biggest, most aggressive opponents of reform, that's really helpful. To their credit, the same publication ran a much better article last month titled, "The Organizational Reasons Police Departments Don't Change."


Anonymous said...

Like her late husband, Devon Anderson is also a friend to the pedophile police officer:

Anonymous said...

RE: Pointing Fingers

Grits' readers have crystal balls. Going back 4 years...

The comments from 2012 are scary accurate given what happened during the APD audit in 2016. I think there are plenty of people to point fingers at, and it's time for Senators Whitmire and Hinojosa to add teeth to the poorly patrolled forensic sciences.

Falsification of government documents such as lab reports, memos, and audits are still crimes and should be prosecuted as such. Obstruction of justice, too.