Lease this WebApp and get rid of the ads.
Petra.
TX: Prison oversight committee not likely to happen ...
Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:31
78.35.112.123

Prison oversight committee not likely to happen this session
Posted Tuesday, Apr. 09, 2013
By BOB RAY SANDERS
bobray@star-telegram.com

Although Texas' prison population has dropped slightly over the past five years, the state still leads the nation in the number of people behind bars.

There are more than 154,000 inmates in 111 state penitentiaries, and there are weeks when it seems I hear from most of them.

Some proclaim their innocence, others speak of mistreatment by prison personnel, and many complain about conditions -- the heat, the food, the mold and other sanitary problems.

Unfortunately, there is no way I can answer all their mail, much less investigate every complaint. Sometimes I pass along their concerns to prison advocacy groups or the Innocence Project.

And, no, I don't believe every claim that's presented to me, nor do I dismiss every charge as being a gross exaggeration or a prisoner's attempt at retaliation against what he feels is an unjust system.

The summer heat, though, is definitely a problem, which is why for years I've helped Texas CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants) raise money for their Inmate Fan Project.

Any institution the size of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is bound to have some problems, and society's concern ought to be that those issues are properly addressed.

Just this year a federal grand jury in Corpus Christi returned indictments against 13 prison guards, along with 19 others, on charges of racketeering. The jailers allegedly took bribes to smuggle cellphones and drugs to inmates at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, ValleyCentral.com reported.

The indictments allege that in addition to using cellphones and getting cigarettes, the inmates also received marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

That raises a question: Is the McConnell Unit the only place such activity has occurred?

Several prison advocacy groups for years have been calling for greater oversight over TDCJ, including having unannounced visits to units to investigate prisoner complaints. They hadn't gotten very far until this year, when state Rep. Alma A. Allen, D-Houston, introduced House Bill 877, calling for creation of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Oversight Committee.

As proposed, the committee would be composed of eight legislators -- four from the House and four from the Senate -- and provide "a continuing inspection and oversight for each correctional facility."

Leaders for groups representing inmates' families testified before the House Corrections Committee last month and insisted that the oversight committee also have four public members. They also objected to the bill's designation of the attorney general as the committee's legal adviser, saying it was a natural conflict of interest.

Michael Jewell, executive director of Texas CURE, said several long-established organizations have been receiving complaints from inmates and advocating on their behalf for years.

"Texas CURE has monitored the Texas prison system for more than four decades," he said. "Taken together, our combined databases contain a wealth of information that should prove to be invaluable to the objectives of the TDCJ Oversight Committee."

Joan Covici, a volunteer for several inmate advocacy groups, sent House committee members a summary of the alleged six-year racketeering scheme at the McConnell Unit and suggested that had there been an oversight committee in place, the "enterprise" would have been uncovered much sooner. She said the system is in need of a group "that listens to voices from the inside."

Jewell and Covici, along with many others, are very passionate about the concerns of those locked up, and they were quite hopeful when Allen filed her bill in the House.

Sadly, that bill is not likely to go anywhere.

A staff member in Allen's office told me they simply don't have the votes to get it out of committee, meaning that's where it probably will die.

That doesn't mean those of us who advocate for inmates' rights and humane treatment will give up. We've become accustomed to setbacks, legislators' indifference and the old attitude of "who cares about prisoners?"

We just keep fighting -- frustrated by the defeats, but thankful for the periodic small victories.

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays.

817-390-7775

Twitter: @BobRaySanders

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/04/09/4762340/prison-oversight-committee-not.html#storylink=cpy

  • Criminal Justice Texas-Size Reparations for the Wrongfully Convicted By Tim Stelloh on January 31, 2013 In 2006, after serving 19 years and 11 months in a Texas prison for a rape he didn’t commit,... more
    • TX: Prison oversight committee not likely to happen ... — Petra., Wed Apr 10 12:31
    • Thursday, January 31, 2013 On Judges Getting It Right and Prosecutors Getting it Wrong and Testing and Believing the ...ing DNA As Paul Kennedy wrote this morning, Judge tells state to just test the... more
      • Death Row Prisoner Larry Swearingen May Be Innocent. Do Texas Courts Care? Jordan Smith February 20, 2013   Just over a year ago, in January 2012, Texas Governor Rick Perry marked a gruesome... more
        • Swearingen gets partial win over document review By Howard Roden | Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013 11:32 pm The attorney for Larry Ray Swearingen was in Conroe Friday requesting access to almost all of ... more
          • TX: LARRY RAY SWEARINGEN, AppelleePetra., Wed Feb 5 17:08
            http://www.cca.courts.state.tx.us/OPINIONS/HTMLOPINIONINFO.ASP?OPINIONID=25109 IN THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF TEXAS NO. AP-77,020 THE STATE OF TEXAS V. LARRY RAY SWEARINGEN, Appellee ON DIRECT... more
            • Swearingen requests hearing on DNA testing; DA’s office focused on execution date Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014 11:07 pm By Howard Roden Attorneys for convicted killer Larry Ray Swearingen filed... more
              • Swearingen defense requests more DNA tests By Brandon K. Scott | Posted 3 hours ago Attorneys for Larry Swearingen filed an amended motion last week to the 9th state District Court in Montgomery... more
                • Court Again Denies DNA Tests in Death Row Case • by Johnathan Silver - The Texas Tribune • Oct. 28, 2015 Death row inmate Larry Swearingen during an interview at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston,... more
                  • Larry Swearingen is scheduled to be executed by Texas on November 16,2017 Texas – former Gov. Rick Perry and his successor Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas death penalty enthusiasts– don’t lose sleep over... more
                    • The legal reason for denial of DNA testing has always been that evidence of guilt is so overwhelming that there is no reason for DNA testing. This is a long standing legal reason to reject appellate... more
                      • http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/conroe/news/article/DA-defense-agree-to-DNA-testing-in-Swearingen-12315422.php#photo-11351471 Lawyers agree to DNA testing in Swearingen's death row case By Keri... more
                        • SwearingenDudley Sharp, Sat Nov 4 08:37
                          Petra: One of the strangest legal back and forths, ever, 19 years in the making.
            • 2/5/14 “MOUNTAIN OF EVIDENCE” OF SWEARINGEN’S GUILT RESULTS IN DENIAL OF ADDITIONAL DNA TESTING... more
              • Hello Dudley long time no see hope your keeping well? I have question for you Hun I don't no much about this case I'm going over trial now. Do you think he's guilty?. What I've read so far I think he ... more
                • Sweearingen's guiltDudley Sharp, Fri Feb 7 17:21
                  Kitten" The "mountain of evidence" for his guilt is the language from the appellate judges. Stick to the appellate record and not the usual BS from anti death penalty folks, eg Troy Davis.
          • http://www.andrewpurcell.net/?p=1609 The most guilty person in the history of Montgomery County’ Published in the Dublin Review in June 2013. From George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, the ... more
      • TX: Letters: Weighing in on DNA testingPetra., Sun Feb 3 06:36
        Letters: Weighing in on DNA testing Copyright 2013: Houston Chronicle | February 2, 2013 Common sense Regarding "Test the DNA" (Page B8, Wednesday), the article provides a perfect example of our... more
Click here to receive daily updates
List by Petra Hädrich-Kabacali (moderated)
P.H.@deathrow-texas.com
http://www.deathrow-usa.com