A super-busy week at work has kept Grits off the blog, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been a lot going on.
Tragic murder of deputy constable no argument for enhancement bill
The tragic ambush murder of a deputy constable in Houston was touted by some this week as an argument for legislation boosting penalties for assaulting police officers. But killing a cop is already capital murder. How much more can you "enhance" the penalty than a death sentence? Whatever arguments may exist for or against the bill, this episode is unrelated. After all, the possibility of a death sentence didn't deter this suspect, why would anyone think a lesser punishment would have done so?
Focus on suicide to prevent police officer deaths
Meanwhile, a Marshall Project email noted this week that, "29 police officers committed suicide in the first quarter of 2017. LAW OFFICER Related: That’s almost three times the number of cops (11) who have been killed by gunfire this year. OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE." This highlights an issue Grits has discussed for years: While police officer murders receive far more sensationalist coverage, suicides and traffic accidents are the more frequent causes of officer deaths, and little is done to stop them.
Opposition to bail reform overstates case
Sen. Whitmire's and Rep Andrew Murr's bill requiring risk assessments before bail is set does NOT require judges to follow the assessment's recommendations. It's entirely voluntary for the judges (which some say privately could be its Achilles heel - that there should be a presumption for low-risk defendants to receive personal bonds). But to hear the bail bond industry tell it, you'd think the bill requires counties to gather mobs and hound them out of town with torches and pitch forks. What a pile of horse hockey. As the Houston Chronicle opined this week, opposition to bail reform is becoming more or less indefensible. Few of the criticisms are rooted in reality, and almost entirely represent a (overstated) complaint from bail bondsmen and the politicians they bankroll about potential lost revenue.
Hate crime by jail guards?
Felony hate crimes charges have been filed against two Walker County jail guards for abusing an inmate in a racially tinged incident.
Immigration roundups and empty detention facilities: A match made in Hell
Texas county jails are hoping that the Trumpian immigration roundups will result in new detention contracts for empty, overbuilt jails constructed on spec at the height of the incarceration boom. And private prisons are pushing at the Lege, in the face of significant opposition, to become licensed child care providers so they can house immigrant children detainees. This is why private prison stocks soared after the election, but Grits wouldn't be so quick to invest. The president's budget cutting tendencies probably will mean most of these facilities still can't find contract prisoners to fill them.
Parallels between Obamacare and the Driver Responsibility Program
The Driver Responsibility Program is Texas' version of Obamacare. The program is broadly despised, the leadership wants to "repeal and replace" it, but fears doing so because people will lose access to health care. Debates over the DRP this year are all about how to fund hospital trauma centers if the program goes away. The Texas House found a way in the budget to cover about a third of the money for trauma centers, which could make way for easier repeal or scaling back of the Driver Responsibility surcharge. Rep. Mando Martinez pulled down an amendment to the budget that would have redirected money from border security after being told that more than a $100 million extra had already been designated for trauma centers in the budget, But the vehicle for repeal will likely move first in the Senate and they can't figure out how to proceed. Folks in the House need to make sure that extra money stays tied to surcharge repeal and doesn't just turn into an extra gift if repeal doesn't pass. The hospitals have been playing hardball on this and surcharge opponents must do so as well if the program is going to go away.
Why it's not necessary for police to shoot someone armed with a knife
Excellent story on the differences between how US and European law enforcement handles this situation.