Friday, February 09, 2018

Full 5th Circuit to hear case of teen framed by Brownsville PD, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit readers' attention:

New Texas #cjreform newsletter
A new, weekly, Texas-specific justice-reform news roundup from the Fair Punishment Project merits readers attention and brings up a few thoughts. Here's the latest example. Go here to sign up.

Juvie prisons full, or emptying, or something
The new executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department had earlier opined that Texas couldn't "raise the age" because the TJJD system was too full to handle the extra 17 year olds, though Grits disputed how many extra kids that would be, and instead was shifting high-risk youth to be housed in adult prisons. Now, though, she's saying the state may have enough extra slack in the system to close more juvie units in the next few years and rely more on community corrections. So which is it? Would adding 17-year olds overwhelm the juvie system, or are we anticipating enough slack to close entire units in the near future? ¿Quien sabe?

Harris County overincarcerating juvie probation violators
As we shift youth from state prisons to county-run probation settings, the state needs to increase oversight of county-run operations because some of them are over-incarcerating, too.

Heat litigation settlement sets new standard
The settlement of heat litigation so far only affects inmates at the Wallace Pack unit, but it's pretty clear this is a camel's nose under the tent situation. Certainly, there are other inmates who fit in the "heat-sensitive" category at other un-air-conditioned units around the state. Further, "In addition to ending the fight over air-conditioning the Pack unit, prison officials also agreed to allow heat-sensitive inmates to be driven to medical appointments in air-conditioned vehicles — ending a practice that discouraged treatment by requiring them to sit, sometimes for hours, in hot buses."

Deliberately indifferent TDCJ medical care caused heart attack
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a plaintiff in a case alleging TDJC's deliberate indifference contributed to an inmate's heart attack.

Suicide kills more TDCJ inmates than executions
Suicide attempts in Texas prisons have doubled in the last four years, reported the Houston Chronicle. Strangely, though, the data doesn't differentiate between inmates who only talk about suicide and those who actually attempt it. That failure causes these data to obscure nearly as much as they enlighten. But the significant upward trend remains problematic. Notably, "In 2012, 36 prisoners killed themselves, marking the highest numbers of completed suicides in several years." By contrast, Texas executed 15 people that year (source). Since then, the number of executions have declined, while the annual number of suicides in TDCJ has hovered in the low 30s. So suicides are a much larger source of prisoner deaths than executions in Texas.

Full 5th Circuit to hear case of teen framed by Brownsville police
The full 5th Circuit will hear en banc a case about which Grits has written a couple of times, and on which we did a podcast segment last July: George Alvarez was a slight 17-year old in Brownsville when he was framed by police for assaulting an office. But a 3-judge panel at the 5th Circuit ruled that the state had no obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense in a plea deal, that the Brady rights only attach when defendants go to trial. See a detailed writeup here from

'Mass Incarceration and Its Discontents': Reviewing Pfaff
After Grits' reviewed John Pfaff's book Locked In last year, I've been watching for other data-based critiques of his conclusions about the causes of and solutions for mass incarceration. One of the more scathing has been published in "Contemporary Sociology" titled "Mass Incarceration and Its Discontents," reviewing Pfaff's books with two others. The whole essay is worth a read for those who concern themselves with these questions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Odd that applying the Brady rule pre-plea bargain would be both an onerous drag on moving so many cases forward expeditiously and yet somehow also unnecessary because such an issue so rarely arises. I trust some Justice will ask the logical question of how these two contradictory things can simultaneously be true.