Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Grits for Breakfast
Welcome to Texas justice: You might beat the rap, but you won't beat the ride.
Friday, April 02, 2010

Largest Texas counties now receive more inmates from TDCJ than they send
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's new annual statistical report (pdf) is out and Melody McDonald at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an overview with some of the highlights.

Here are a few items I noticed that she didn't mention:
Importantly, the largest counties appear to have reached a tipping point (as a result of shipping so many people off to prison over the years) and now receive more inmates back into their communities than they send to TDCJ:
Harris County sent 14,943 people to TDCJ in 2009, and saw 15,287 come back. Dallas sent 7,383 people to prison and saw 7,432 return.
Overall, though, the trend is headed in the opposite direction after a 2008 dip in inmate numbers; TDCJ received 520 more prisoners in FY 2009 than it released.

Keeping prisons full is for the most part a choice by the Board of Pardons and Paroles: 64% of inmates in TDCJ's institutional division are eligible for parole - more than 88,000 people.

TDCJ inmates released in 2009 (excluding those in state jail, who serve their time day for day) overall served an average of 59.8% of their sentences before the parole board lets them out.

Drug offenders on average served 46.1% of their sentences, compared to 56.6% for property crimes and 78.9% for violent offenders.Drug offenders make up just 16.5% of TDCJ inmates overall but 33.6% of new "receives," or incoming inmates, and 36.5% of parole revocations. Three out of four inmates entering TDCJ on drug charges (75.5%) were sentenced for possession only. Of drug offenders sent to state jail, 88.3% were for possession only - mostly for possessing less than a gram of a controlled substance.885 people went to prison in FY 2009 for sex offender registration violations.

Texas sent 5,128 people to prison in FY 2009 for DWI. These are people with 3 DWI convictions or more.

As was emphasized at a recent House Corrections Committee meeting, Harris County is underutilizing SAFP beds, sentencing eligible drug offenders to incarceration instead of treatment. TDCJ had 773 SAFP placements from Dallas in 2009, just 391 from much-larger Harris County, and 217, 164, and 145, respectively, from Tarrant, Bexar and Travis counties. Harris County's underutilization partially explains why TDCJ presently has unused SAFP beds it recently suggested might be part of budget cuts.

A total of 7,337 people during FY 2009 entered TDCJ with sentences longer than 10 years. Seventy-seven new receives were sentenced to Life Without Parole; ten new residents were added to death row.

Here's a county-by county breakdown of TDCJ inmates received, including those sent to state jail and SAFP:
Harris: 14,943Dallas: 7,383Tarrant: 5,183Bexar: 4,809Travis: 2,679Collin: 797Hidalgo: 1,927El Paso: 1,206Denton: 883Fort Bend: 528Montgomery: 803Williamson: 764Cameron: 721Nueces: 1,770Brazoria: 616Galveston: 848Bell: 844Lubbock: 972Webb: 159Jefferson: 1,138All others: 23,765Clearly the big counties account for most TDCJ inmates, but that "all others" figure is pretty impressive considering those are the least populated areas of the state.

These are just a few things that jumped out at me.

There's lots more detail in the full report (pdf).
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast at 10:40 AM
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Texas Youth Commission Abuse Case moved to Odessa, TX

Brookins in court
2010-02-22 17:55:13
Judge Jay Gibson heard arguments on everything from how much pornography can be admitted to how many one-time West Texas State School students will testify when the trial of the Pyote all-male prison facility’s former assistant superintendent begins in April.
Ray Edward Brookins, 44, wore a dark suit to the hearing in Gibson’s makeshift courtroom in a jury room at Ector County Courthouse, where the Texas Youth Commission trial was moved from Monahans.
Defense attorney Bob Garcia asked Gibson to exclude all pornographic evidence from the case.
But Assistant Texas Attorney General Adrienne McFarland said the evidence, which includes "a wide variety" of DVD videos, VHS tapes and sex toys, is important to the prosecution’s case.
"We are going to be seeking to introduce these items," she said. "Many of these items corroborate with statements from the TYC students."
McFarland said she would introduce a witness who will discuss Brookins talking about or showing the items to students.
Garcia said he was concerned that prosecutors would try having every one of the pornographic items on their table for jurors to see.
"I can assure you we’re not going to do that," McFarland said.
Garcia also implied that the attorney general’s office had a conflict of interest, since the state represented TYC in civil suits brought against it by former inmates at the Pyote school, one of whom is on the prosecution’s witness list.
"They are the lawyers who are defending the lawsuit, but, in this case, they are the prosecution," he said.
But McFarland said that a different department of the attorney general’s office handled any lawsuits.
"There are numerous departments in our office," she said. "Mr. Garcia is representing that the attorney general is representing TYC. I have no knowledge of that."
Defense attorney Rick Navarrete addressed the issue of 68 extraneous offenses involving 25 victims in addition to the victim listed in the case. He said that if the information were to be admitted, as the prosecution wants, it could cause the trail to go from lasting one week to taking between three and four weeks.
"If you have the evidence, why didn’t you prosecute them for it?" he said. "But they didn’t."
Gibson said he would deal with some of the issues in a hearing on April 19, the day before the long-awaited trial is scheduled to start.
McFarland also asked the judge whether the witnesses, many of whom are in state or county jails, would be held in Ector County or Ward County during the trial.
"It’s going to be quite a few that I’m going to have bench warrants for," she said.
Gibson said he would likely house the inmates in Ward County.
At a November hearing, Garcia requested additional attorneys. Monday, he introduced two of them — Navarrete and Jason Leach. That’s a big increase for Brookins, who showed up twice for hearings without counsel after his former attorney was arrested.
The prosecution also had a change. Assistant Attorney General Ralph Guerrero worked with McFarland. He is replacing Lisa Tanner, who is handling a death penalty case.
The attorney general’s office took over the case of Brookins and co-defendant John Paul Hernandez after 143rd District Attorney Randall Reynolds removed himself after coming under scrutiny for not prosecuting the cases sooner.
Ward County District Judge Bob Parks was removed from the case after delays in setting a trial date.
Brookins was charged in April 2007 with two counts each of "improper relationship with a student" and "improper sexual activity with a person in custody." He has pleaded not guilty.
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Texas Substance Abuse Counseling Available for Ector County Teens

Texas Substance Abuse Counseling availableApril 3rd, 2009
Substance Abuse Counseling Now Available for Ector County Teens
By: Sarah SnyderNewsWest 9
Officials say drugs and alcohol are continuously consuming the lives of hundreds of teens in the Basin. So much so that the State Department of Health has stepped in to help out. They’ve offered a rare and hefty grant to teens in the Ector County Youth Detention Center for substance abuse counseling.
The classrooms at the Ector County Youth Detention Center are packed out these days. About 80% of the teens that come in are dealing with substance abuse. It’s a problem their counselors say is spreading across West Texas.
“I think we’re seeing more of it,” Substance Abuse Counselor Patricia Homer, said. “Just with the kids, it’s being more accepted in the adolescent community. That’s their way of escape. They don’t feel like they can talk with adults.”
But that’s just what a new grant from the Texas Department of Health will do – help the young adults understand how to make better life choices.
“We hear a lot that they’re bored,” Homer said. “We can bring to them different ways of having fun other than using drugs and alcohol.”
The Detention Center is getting enough money from the state to kickstart a counseling program for every teen inmate who needs help. They’re getting the cash after the Permian Basin Community Center asked the Department of Health for help.
Each counselor will lead a prevention education class for individuals and groups seperated by age and gender.
The money from the grant will completely fund the program offering prevention and intervention counseling.
“They will be able to develop the interpersonal skills needed to be healthy, productive adults,” Prevention Specialist Jason Navarette, said.
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Walking Wounded in Prison due to LOST Drug War

Walking Wounded in Prison due to Lost Drug WarApril 5th, 2009
Date: Friday, April 3, 2009, 12:34 PMPress Release: April 3, 2009Contact:
FAMM Cheers Passage of Rockefeller Drug Law ReformChanges Further “Smart on Crime” Sentencing Trend
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a national advocacy organization dedicated to reforming mandatory minimum sentencing laws, today applauds New York state leaders responsible for approving legislation that substantially overhauls and reforms New York’s Rockefeller drug laws, once the toughest in the nation. FAMM also congratulates the efforts of families, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and advocates who made these changes possible.
The agreement, included as part of the New York budget bill, now awaits Governor David Paterson’s signature. It will restore judicial discretion in many drug cases, expand drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration, and provide retroactive sentencing relief for people serving prison time for low-level drug offenses. It also allows approximately 1,500 people incarcerated for low-level nonviolent drug offenses to apply for resentencing and increases penalties for “drug kingpins” and adults who sell drugs to young people.
Deborah Fleischaker, director of state legislative affairs of FAMM, issued the following statement in response to today’s news:
“New York’s decision to eliminate its draconian Rockefeller laws marks a step toward policies that are both tough and smart on crime. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are a driving force in skyrocketing prison populations. Many states and the federal government followed New York’s lead and enacted mandatory minimums in the 1970s and 1980s, believing these “one-size-fits-all” sentences would dry up the drug supply and eliminate drug addiction. Sadly, mandatory minimums in New York and elsewhere have the opposite effect, filling our prisons with drug addicts instead of drug kingpins, and causing the erosion of faith in the fairness of the criminal justice system because of severe racial disparities caused by these laws.
Being tough on crime is not enough. States must figure out how to protect public safety, without wasting thousands of lives and millions of dollars. By repealing the Rockefeller drug laws, New York has just taken an enormous step toward finding that balance.
New York has joined the growing wave of states that recognize the harm caused by mandatory minimum sentencing. From Michigan’s elimination of most of its drug mandatory minimum laws, to Nevada’s decision to repeal mandatory sentencing enhancements, to Pennsylvania’s decision to have its Sentencing Commission study the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences, states are waking to the idea that mandatory minimum sentences lead to bloated budgets, fail to protect public safety, and are bad criminal justice policy.
Contrary to the claims of those who oppose these reforms, removing the mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes is not “soft on crime.” Politicians need to concern themselves with crafting smart criminal justice policies, instead of settling for the expensive and unworkable status quo. The New York reforms, though long overdue, are good news for New Yorkers and the rest of the nation. A recent report by Pew Center on the States shows why. One in 31 Americans are under some form of criminal justice control – in prison, on probation or on parole – and one in 100 are in prison or jail. The cost of this overreliance on corrections is staggering – last year it was the fastest expanding major segment of state budgets, and over the past two decades, its growth as a share of state expenditures has been second only to Medicaid. State corrections costs now top $50 billion annually and consume one in every 15 discretionary dollars.”
Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. For more information on FAMM, visit or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel at
Sentences that Fit. Justice that Works.