Friday, October 05, 2018

Should 'progressive' DAs pay dues to reactionary DA associations? Still waiting on 2017 prison data. and other stories

A few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Should 'progressive' DAs pay dues to reactionary DA associations?
When the District and County Attorneys in Travis County recently proposed a merger, they sought support from local #cjreform advocates, who in turn pressed prosecutors for a number of reforms, among which was to stop paying dues to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. (Unlike the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Association, where dues are paid only if an individual lawyer chooses, prosecutors' dues are generally paid by taxpayers from a line item in the DA's budget.) Now, in New York, civil rights advocates are calling on "progressive" DAs to stop paying dues to their association on the grounds that it has been "a consistent barrier to criminal-justice reform." Same can be said for our Texas crew.

Ugly civil rights episode in DeSoto
A DeSoto woman who called the cops to break up a fight between her sons called the choice to dial 911 "the worst decision I’ve ever made as a mom." Although the situation had calmed down by the time police arrived, they emerged from their vehicles with guns drawn. The mother stepped in front of the scene, telling them "Don't shoot my sons." Not an insensible request, in the scheme of things. But "the officers slammed her down on the hot pavement as she tried to speak out." Her three sons were also arrested for interference with police. Two of them lost their jobs when they couldn't show up for work the next day. The mother lost her job, as well, "after she missed work to seek hospital treatment. Medical records show she suffered shoulder and ankle sprains, along with bruises to a knee and wrist." A spokesman for the police chief said the public's response in such situations should be to "comply now and complain later." The department has so far refused to release bodycam footage from the event.

Snitch testimony caused false conviction
An exoneration out of Tarrant County corrected a false conviction based on incentivized informant testimony.

Counties label shirked justice responsibilities 'unfunded mandates'
On Twitter, the Texas District and County Attorney Association has insisted that Texas mustn't undertake bail reform without the Legislature investing big bucks in pretrial services. But bail and pretrial detention are matters under county control and traditionally paid for by county budgets. If their systems are not meeting constitutional muster, they're on the hook for the expenses. For example, Dallas County must hire 24 additional employees to hold individualized bail hearings, the Dallas News reported. And the Legislature hasn't mandated a darn thing! The Texas Association of Counties has taken to referring to all requests that counties perform their basic duties competently as "unfunded mandates," but these mandates arise from citizens' basic constitutional rights, not the Legislature. Even if the Lege fails to pass bail reform, these lawsuits will continue county by county, and local taxpayers will still be on the hook.

Still waiting on 2017 TX prison data
It's been almost 18 months since 2016 data was released, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still hasn't come out with its FY 2017 Annual Statistical Report. WTF?

Voters, press, overwhelmed by judicial race volume
Ridiculously, "there are 75 contested judicial races alone on the November ballot" in Harris County, reported the Houston Chronicle. Notably, in 2020 Texas will eliminate straight ticket voting. But it's almost an insurmountable task for voters to independently evaluate that many judicial candidates. Most of these should be appointed slots.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant
California just made police disciplinary records and body cam footage public. Texas should, too.

The very model of a modern reform prosecutor
In Philadelphia, a couple of items related to new District Atttorney Larry Krasner caught my eye: 1) He is prosecuting police officers for civil rights violations in non-shooting cases, including inappropriate stop and frisks, and 2) he released an video/conversation with sujatha baliga, on the topic of prosecutors and restorative justice. Both are important developments.

Capital-punishment explainer
The Justice Collaborative has produced a lengthy, abolitionist-oriented explainer document on capital punishment with a lot of good information in it. Check it out.

School involvement and incarcerated parents
An academic analysis on topic from last year parsed the issue in a variety of media: a traditional academic article, a blog post, and a short podcast. Nicely done.

Police-involved deaths by race
A new study estimates the risk of police-involved death by race: "Police kill, on average, 2.8 men per day. Police were responsible for about 8% of all homicides with adult male victims between 2012 and 2018. Black men's mortality risk is between 1.9 and 2.4 deaths per 100 000 per year, Latino risk is between 0.8 and 1.2, and White risk is between 0.6 and 0.7."


Anonymous said...

I love how GFB and other so called criminal justice "reform" advocates continue to promote new policies without giving any thought whatsoever to the potential impact on public safety. The bail reform issue discussed in this post is the perfect example. The playbook on many of these issues is, and has been for years, getting a liberal federal judge to force pro-criminal policies on the states and counties without regard to cost and the impact on safety. This strategy is one reason, among several others, that the whole federal court nomination process has become so contentious. Policy legislating from the bench. In other words, what Grits is advocating here, typically, is that a one size fits all bail reform be forced down the counties throats and totally on their dime. A liberalized, pro criminal pretrial release policies with no regard to public safety. He argues that counties have no right to look to the state for comprehensive support and assistance in dealing with these complex issues. His advice to rural poor counties--If a violent criminal commits a crime in your county and you can't afford the luxurious accommodation standards to suit some detached left leaning federal judge, that's your problem! The crime happened in your county so you pay for it! And if you don't sufficiently coddle the criminal, we'll haul your ass back to federal court and tattle on you! I might add at this juncture that here's another reason the libs are losing their mind over the Kavanaugh confirmation. The days of federal courts mandating costly liberal policies on local jurisdictions may, thankfully, be finally drawing to an end. Bottom line, the state will continue to take a leadership and funding role in any real bail reform to insure that all Texans remain safe from violent criminals and that public safety isn't compromised just because some counties don't have the same tax base as others.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered switching to decaf?

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh 5:47...holding counties to constitutional standards is hardly a "new" policy with "no regard to public safety." And bond/bail has absolutely nothing to do with accommodation standards. Lord love a duck! Someone didn't get their coffee this morning.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm hardly "advocating" that, 5:47, I'm acknowledging reality.

Also, the federal judges in question are all Republicans - Lee Rosenthal was appointed by GW Bush, and the 5th Circuit is the most conservative of all federal appellate courts. Your whining about liberal judges doesn't jibe with reality.

You say the state will "continue to take leadership" by paying for pretrial detention, but they have never done so, ever. You don't want them to "continue" paying, you want them to "start."

In the meantime, counties are in charge of bail mechanisms and make pretrial detention decisions, not the state. TDCAA is saying the state should do nothing unless they can find a bunch of money to throw at the problem. (It will be a red-ink budget session, so that's unlikely.) However, the reality is the federal courts are going to force change either way. The "do nothing" option is no longer on the table. So if the Lege does nothing, counties will have to pay, anyway. And it's not because me or Republican judges or whoever else you want to blame are liberal criminal coddlers. It's because counties have been doing a crappy job, violating people's rights, and now they're unhappy they might be required to do better. Cry me a river!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

One more thing, 5:47, you suggested that reformers "continue to promote new policies without giving any thought whatsoever to the potential impact on public safety."

So I'm guessing you missed this post: "The public safety case for bail reform." Turns out, public safety improves when release decisions are based on risk instead of wealth. Who'da thought?

Anonymous said...

Dont you know Grits? Opinions are like belly buttons... Nobody likes it when you stick your nose in theirs :D

As always a great read, keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...


You had me at "reform" in quotes, "pro-criminal", "luxurious accommodations" and "coddle the criminal".

Are you a descendant of Frank Luntz?

Anonymous said...

Electing judges is a terrible thing, but as we have just seen in Washington, appointing judges may be worse. The question will always be, who appoints the judges from what list and who gets to approve them and how long will they serve and how can a judge be removed. By electing judges, the means of removal is present and obvious.

Replicant said...

RE: Dues to reactionary DA associations...

For that matter, should elected officials be allowed to use tax money to pay dues to ANY associations that lobby for ANY legislation? For example, my city and county pay dues to associations that oppose legislative action to protect property owners from sharp tax increases without direct voter approval. Should taxpayers pay for your sheriff or police chief to belong to organizations that oppose--or support--immigration reform, given that some of their constituents don't agree with those organizations' positions.

Let 'em pay dues out of their OWN salaries, not mine!