Wednesday, January 01, 2020

More on victimization at Texas youth prisons, prosecutor loses immunity over wrongful conviction, broken-windows theory built on a hoax, and other stories

Happy new year, folks, let's clear a few browser tabs with a quick roundup of stories that merit Grits readers' attention:

Looking forward to 2020
Michael Barajas at the Texas Observer outlines five debates he anticipates will dominate criminal-justice politics in Texas in 2020. Give it a read.

More on victimization at Texas youth prisons
After Grits earlier reacted to a new federal report on sexual victimization in Texas youth prisons, other reporters are following up. Here's a piece from Tommy Witherspoon at the Waco Tribune Herald, and another from Keri Blakinger, who just left the Houston Chronicle to join the Marshall Project. For related reading, see the new annual report from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and 2018 statistical data on juvenile probation in Texas.

Sunset time
Recently Grits analyzed the Commission on Jail Standards self evaluation for the Sunset Commission. Here's the one for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Also, Seana Willig, formerly of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and now chief disciplinary counsel at the State Bar of Texas, analyzed the impact of Sunset review on lawyer discipline. Here's the Commission on Lawyer Discipline's latest annual report. Criminal law was the most common source of grievances among more than 2,000 lodged statewide last year (p. 20). The "most common allegations were neglect, failure to communicate, and complaints about the termination or withdrawal of representation." Also, 115 attorneys were discipline for stealing money from their clients or failing to return an unearned fee (p. 13); 15 of those were criminal defense attorneys

Prosecutor loses immunity over politicized wrongful conviction
Grits must admit I have not followed the back and forth between Judge Suzanne Wooten and former Collin County DA John Roach, but I'm amazed to read that she has overcome prosecutors' immunity claims in federal court. Reported Angela Morris at Texas Lawyer:
Wooten notched a win in federal court Monday after a judge ruled prosecutors involved in her wrongful conviction cannot claim qualified immunity from her wrongful prosecution claims. That ruling came from Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas.
I'm flagging this to read the opinion later. Sounds like they only were eligible for qualified immunity because the DA bypassed local law enforcement and performed the investigation themselves, then they WAY overreached and voided even "qualified" protections.

Counter-intuitive outcome from justice-system involvement
Contact with the justice system increases delinquency among youth, says a study out of the UK analyzing twins.

The 'Mass Supervision Crisis'
See coverage from The Atlantic on the politics and policy of parole.

Busted! Broken-windows theory built on a hoax
Ever heard of the "broken windows" theory? That if one window is broken, people will see it as a sign of neighborhood disorder and break nearby windows? An entire generation of law-enforcement executives based their street-level strategies on the idea. But it turns out, in the original study on which James Q. Wilson and others based this now-mostly-rejected notion, the researchers themselves broke all the windows! OMFG! Could anyone draw a less valid conclusion from such a result? How much damage has been done, how many hundreds of thousands needlessly arrested, because of this politicized misuse of shoddy scholarship? That makes me incredibly angry.


Anonymous said...

The entire TJJD issue seems to be on going but I wonder, all the youth that "claim" to have been sexually abused..... where are the arrests and convictions????? In m,y almo0st 40 years working with youth of all kind including probation kids the one thing I have learned is they can make any "allegation" they want to, which counts as a statistic, even though it may be found as a untruth. Now, I never want to discourage the reporting of such incidents, but if the media wants to report the "allegations" then they also should report the results of any investigation regarding those claims. But, that may not be sensationalized enough. A;so, current articles seem to be reporting the same incidents over and over. Are these truly continuing to occur or is it just beating a dead horse?? The most disturbing part of this is it seems there is employment issues and if the legislature really wants to fix the system they need to up the wages to the line workers who put themselves o0n the line every minute they deal with the state's most difficult youth. Sen. Whitmire and Rep. Dutton.... put up or shut up..

Steven Michael Seys said...

I now see hope that the justice system will be cleaned up from the bad actors who stand out like weeds in the golf green. For too long the officers of the court have held immunity from prosecution for crimes committed in the course of their work and immunity from civil recourse for violations of civil rights also committed in the course of their work. We have been hearing the statement, "No one is above the law," bantered about like a mantra in a transcendental meditation class these past few months. Yet over the course of the nation's history a select few, all of them working in some level of government, have gained immunity from the law. I can't see any difference between regal immunity, judicial immunity and qualified immunity. They all place the one enjoying that immunity above the law. Whenever a member of congress, who is immune from prosecution for crimes committed on the floor of the chamber and cannot be arrested while traveling to or from a session, uses the line, you know they're lying.