Reforming state jails, prosecution as grant management, and other stories

Just a few odds and ends that didn’t make it into their own, individual posts:

Narcotics task force cops robbed drug dealers instead of arrest them
Reported the McAllen Monitor, “Two Mission narcotics investigators have been arrested alongside other local law enforcement officers in a federal corruption probe focusing on drug loads stolen from the criminals they had been tasked with taking down.” The alleged perpetrators were part of “a joint drug task force made up of Hidalgo County and Mission officers.” Long-time readers may recall that multi-county task forces were placed under jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety back in 2005, with most of them going under within a year, either because they refused DPS supervision or, the rest of them, when Gov. Perry pulled the plug on their funding. But some multi-agency task forces soon formed among agencies all within the same county, as in this example, and clearly some of the same problems still arise. See more on the latest episode from Texas Watchdog.

Conservative plan for reforming state jails
The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Jeanette Moll argued in an Austin Statesman editorial that Texas hamstrung the state jail system “before the first state jail even opened its doors” by implementing direct sentencing instead of using them as a short-term probation sanction. She suggested that, “With hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year on state jails, and outcomes worse than prison, state jails are in dire need of reform.” (See related Grits coverage on Ms. Moll’s proposals.)

‘Texas DPS marks 10,000th match in open cases’
So reported the Texas Tribune. The looming question: Will the Legislature spend money to expand DNA testing capacity at Texas crime labs, not to mention DWI blood testing and other areas where crime labs have backlogs.

Just say “No” to sobriety checkpoints
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram asks “Should Texas have sobriety checkpoints?” For reasons previously stated, Grits votes no.

Strong probation for meth-head driver who hit cyclist
A round of apology letters, an 18-month ban on coaching youth sports teams, and $8,000 in restitution are among “unique” probation conditions for a meth-using driver who struck a stopped motorcycllist from behind in Weatherford.

His only apology is for apologizing
The Waco Tribune interviewed former county tax assessor Buddy Skeen who’s currently in jail for misuse of public funds and regrets agreeing to apologize for his actions in open court as a condition of his plea. “I wasn’t punished for my crime. I was punished for my political affiliation.”

School discipline roundup

The Texas Education Report has updates on the controversy over RFID use in two San Antonio schools (see related Grits coverage), a report on the hundreds of millions spent by large school districts on disciplinary systems, and another report on a pilot program at Waco ISD aiming to reduce disciplinary referrals, a subject that’s lately received national attention. See a related, recent report from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition titled, “Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble.”

Girls’ experience in the juvenile justice system
See the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s recent report.

Prosecution as grant management?
Is there seemingly no failure in public life which cannot be criminally prosecuted?

Peach state criminal justice reform?
Watch what Georgia does on scaling back criminal justice spending. If it can pass in the Peach State, it’s got a chance in the Texas Lege.

Private Prison Exec a Grade A Creep
Thomas Weirdsma, the senior vice president of project development at private prison company GEO Group, in my book is a Grad A creep. He’s been taking heat lately for a video deposition in which he said that giving false testimony to government agencies “happens all the time.” But the real scandal comes from evicting his immigrant daughter in law and allegedly threatening to use his immigration agency connections to have her deported if she pressed charges against his son after she endured “multiple drunken beatings, a near drowning in a bathtub, and an attempted suffocation with a pillow,” the Boulder Daily Camera reported earlier this year. Ick! Awarding the daughter-in-law a $1.2 million verdict, jurors found that the Weirdesmas, father and son, each engaged in “outrageous conduct” during the episode, which sounds to me like an understatement.

Huge fine for HSBC money laundering
Finally, a serious punishment for an international bank for money laundering. I’d come to despair that banks and businesses had been declared effectively exempt from money laundering enforcement, so this is a good sign. A $1.9 billion fine will serve as an actual deterrent, as opposed to all the cozy “deferred prosecution” cases

Harsh CIA interrogations ineffective
So concluded the most extensive-ever analysis on the topic, though it’s a conclusion I once thought professional interrogators had reached many decades ago following the Wickersham Commission.

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