prisons http://kut.org en Texas Department of Criminal Justice Sued Over Inhumane Prisoner Treatment http://kut.org/post/texas-department-criminal-justice-sued-over-inhumane-prisoner-treatment <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Three groups filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and its executive director, Brad Livingston, alleging Texas prisons' lack of air conditioning is dangerous.</span></p><p>The lawsuit, filed in Houston federal court, alleges TDCJ is housing inmates in inhumane conditions that violate constitutional rights. Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas, lacks air-conditioning, and summer temperatures can send living conditions sweltering into the triple digits.</p><p>The groups bringing the suit include the Texas Civil Rights Project, and the University of Texas School of Law’s Civil Rights Clinic. The suit was filed on behalf of four prisoners at Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota. It also names Wallace Pack Unit senior warden Roberto Herrera as a defendant.</p><p> Wed, 18 Jun 2014 21:09:52 +0000 Joseph Baucum 10632 at http://kut.org Texas Department of Criminal Justice Sued Over Inhumane Prisoner Treatment Solitary Confinement Study Approved but Lacks Funding http://kut.org/post/solitary-confinement-study-approved-lacks-funding <p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin-bottom: 1em; padding: 0px; line-height: 1.35; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px;">Last year, lawmakers approved and Gov.<a data-tooltip="/directory/rick-perry/quicklook/" href="http://www.texastribune.org/directory/rick-perry/" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(0, 137, 144);" title="">Rick Perry</a>&nbsp;signed a bill that requires a<a href="http://www.texastribune.org/2013/05/21/time-fading-bills-aimed-reducing-solitary-confinem/" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(0, 137, 144);" target="_blank">detailed</a><a href="http://www.texastribune.org/2013/05/21/time-fading-bills-aimed-reducing-solitary-confinem/" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(0, 137, 144);" target="_blank"> review</a>&nbsp;of the use of solitary confinement in Texas prisons.</p><p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin-bottom: 1em; padding: 0px; line-height: 1.35; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px;">Four months after the measure became law, though, the committee charged with hiring an independent party to study solitary confinement in the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(0, 137, 144);" target="_blank">Texas Department of Criminal Justice</a>&nbsp;hasn’t met and has no intention to.</p><p> Tue, 07 Jan 2014 17:56:09 +0000 Brandi Grissom, Texas Tribune & Brandi Grissom, Texas Tribune 9496 at http://kut.org Solitary Confinement Study Approved but Lacks Funding Study Shows Texans Support Changing How The State Punishes Drug Crimes http://kut.org/post/study-shows-texans-support-changing-how-state-punishes-drug-crimes <span style="line-height: 1.5;">A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses.</span> The <a href="http://www.texaspolicy.com/" target="_blank">Texas Public Policy Foundation</a>’s Center for Effective Justice polled over 1,000 people about how Texas currently punishes non-violent drug offenders with prison time vs. drug rehab and probation.&#160;&#160;<p>Marc Levin, the director for the Center for Effective Justice, said their study shows 84 percent of Texans support sending this group of people to drug rehab vs. Tue, 10 Dec 2013 16:19:06 +0000 Ryan Poppe 9340 at http://kut.org Study Shows Texans Support Changing How The State Punishes Drug Crimes Texas Civil Rights Project Files Suit Against Private Corporation Running Dawson State Jail http://kut.org/post/texas-civil-rights-project-files-suit-against-private-corporation-running-dawson-state-jail <p>The <a href="http://www.texascivilrightsproject.org/">Texas Civil Rights Project </a>and Prison Legal News have filed a lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America, claiming the company is withholding evidence of mismanagement and mistreatment of prison inmates.</p><p>The lawsuit claims that Corrections Corporation of America covered up the deaths of seven inmates at the Dawson State Jail in Dallas. Earlier this year, the death of an infant at the prison made headlines statewide. Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, said the lawsuit will shine light on the private prison industry.</p><p> Wed, 01 May 2013 19:55:34 +0000 Bobby Blanchard 7576 at http://kut.org Texas Civil Rights Project Files Suit Against Private Corporation Running Dawson State Jail Bill Would Assess Condition of Inmates in Solitary Confinement http://kut.org/post/bill-would-assess-condition-inmates-solitary-confinement <p>More than 5 percent of the prison population in Texas is in solitary confinement, more than double the 2 percent national average. But one state senator says too little is known about the condition of these prisoners, especially those who may have been diagnosed with mental health or cognitive problems.</p><p>The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was considering the bill Wednesday afternoon.</p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 22:30:26 +0000 Veronica Zaragovia 7400 at http://kut.org Bill Would Assess Condition of Inmates in Solitary Confinement Report: Adjust Policy on Who Gets Sent to State Jails http://kut.org/post/report-adjust-policy-who-gets-sent-state-jails-0 <p></p><p>A new report argues that state jails aren't meeting their goal of helping to&nbsp;reduce crime by intensively treating short-term, nonviolent inmates, and it recommends that judges no longer be able to sentence felons to state jails without a rehabilitation plan.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.texaspolicy.com/center/effective-justice/reports/putting-corrections-back-state-jails">report</a>, published Monday by the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.texaspolicy.com/">Texas Public Policy Foundation</a>, a conservative think tank, says that those convicted of nonviolent felonies and normally sentenced to months in a state-operated jail should instead be released with community supervision. That can include treatment programs, community service, strictly enforced probation conditions and the threat of incarceration if certain conditions are violated. The report's suggestions were based on recent data concerning the number of felons who commit crimes after being released from state jails.</p><p> Mon, 03 Dec 2012 18:15:55 +0000 Maurice Chammah, Texas Tribune 5807 at http://kut.org Report: Adjust Policy on Who Gets Sent to State Jails Report: Fewer Ex-Cons Returning to Texas Prisons http://kut.org/post/report-fewer-ex-cons-returning-texas-prisons <p>Fewer Texas ex-convicts are returning to prison, according to <a href="http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/announcements/new-report-demonstrates-states-success-in-reducing-recidivism" target="_blank">a report released today</a> by the National Reentry Resource Center.</p><p>The report tracked individuals released from prison between 2005 and 2007 until 2010, to see whether they returned to prison. It found that the three-year recidivism rate went down 11 percent in Texas.</p><p>Other states with significant drops in their recidivism rates were Ohio, Kansas and Michigan.</p><p>The report credits the lowered recidivism rates in many states to increased funding for programs that ease the transition from prison to society, including the <a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c110:5:./temp/%7Ec110RQS2IV::" target="_blank">2008 Second Chance Act</a>. The act provides federal grants to state and local governments and community organizations to provide services that ease the transition from prison to society. Funds can be used to provide employment services, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and mentoring to prisoners and ex-cons.</p><p> Tue, 25 Sep 2012 20:57:14 +0000 Kelli Ainsworth 5160 at http://kut.org Report: Fewer Ex-Cons Returning to Texas Prisons Ex-Offenders Invited to Weigh-In on Reentry Process http://kut.org/post/ex-offenders-invited-weigh-reentry-process <p>A local coalition that helps people transition from life in prison to the outside is now looking for ex-offenders to serve on an advisory committee.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.reentryroundtable.net/" target="_blank">Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable</a>’s Ex-Offenders’ Council will make recommendations for policy changes that make the transition from prison to society easier.</p><p>A few years ago, the group the helped change how city and county job applications ask about criminal background.</p><p>Jeri Houchins is the group’s Administrative Director. She says it’s important for those who have experienced reentry to have a <a href="http://www.reentryroundtable.net/new-ex-offenders-council/" target="_blank">voice in any possible changes</a>. Tue, 18 Sep 2012 18:02:17 +0000 Laura Rice 5100 at http://kut.org Ex-Offenders Invited to Weigh-In on Reentry Process AM Update: More HID Global Incentive Talk, County Prison Problems, UT Offers Real Estate Certificate http://kut.org/post/am-update-more-hid-global-incentive-talk-county-prison-problems-ut-offers-real-estate <p><a href="http://kutnews.org/post/gas-leak-slows-down-traffic-south-austin" target="_blank">Traffic is now clearing up</a> around Stassney Lane and Manchaca Road after a gas leak at the intersection this morning. Schools in the area started on time. Here's a roundup of other news this morning:</p><p><strong>More HID Global Incentives?</strong></p><p>Travis County Commissioners will meet in executive session today to talk about <a href="http://www.co.travis.tx.us/commissioners_court/agendas/voting_session_agenda.asp" target="_blank">whether the county will offer economic incentives</a> to a company that’s considering relocating to the area.</p><p>The State of Texas is <a href="http://kutnews.org/post/city-state-considering-incentives-agreement-id-company" target="_blank">already offering HID Global</a> $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. And the <a href="http://kutnews.org/post/council-consider-incentive-plan-hid-global" target="_blank">City of Austin is considering</a> offering the company close to a million dollars in rebates on taxes for real estate and equipment purchases. The city plans to <a href="http://www.austintexas.gov/department/city-council/council-meetings" target="_blank">hold a public hearing</a> on the issue Sept. 27.</p><p>In return, HID Global would build a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin, and create 276 jobs over 10 years. HID Global makes products like ID cards and key-card readers.</p><p><strong>Problems in Texas County Prisons</strong></p><p>Today Texas lawmakers will take a <a href="http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/82R/schedules/html/C2102012091810001.HTM" target="_blank">look at problems facing county jails</a>. Tue, 18 Sep 2012 13:57:59 +0000 Laura Rice & Hady Karl Mawajdeh 5098 at http://kut.org AM Update: More HID Global Incentive Talk, County Prison Problems, UT Offers Real Estate Certificate Cell Phone Blockers Coming to Two Texas Prisons http://kut.org/post/can-you-hear-me-now-cell-phone-blockers-coming-two-texas-prisons <p>Some Texas prisons will soon be equipped with technology that blocks most cell phone calls.</p><p>Inmates are not supposed to have cell phones. But officials at the <a href="http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/unit_directory/st.html" target="_blank">Stiles Prison Unit</a> in Beaumont and the <a href="http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/unit_directory/ml.html" target="_blank">McConnell Unit</a> outside of Corpus Christi say it’s been a challenge to keep them out.</p><p>Brad Livingston is the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He explains the technology limits which calls can be made.</p><p>“It allows cell phone signals to be sent successfully only to the extent that the number is pre-programmed in," Livingston says. "All other cell phones are defeated and the call is not connected.” Wed, 05 Sep 2012 20:42:54 +0000 Laura Rice 5025 at http://kut.org Cell Phone Blockers Coming to Two Texas Prisons AM Update: Hearing on Women's Health Program, Lawmakers to Discuss Texas Prisons, New Rules for CDLs http://kut.org/post/am-update-hearing-womens-health-program-lawmakers-discuss-texas-prisons-new-rules-cdls <p>It's back to work today for many after a long Labor Day weekend. Expect <a href="http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?CityName=Austin&amp;state=TX&amp;site=EWX&amp;textField1=30.267&amp;textField2=-97.743&amp;e=1" target="_blank">another day in the triple digits</a>.</p><p><strong>Public Invited to Comment on Texas Women’s Health Program</strong></p><p>Today the <a href="http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/DynamicContent.aspx?id=8589970162" target="_blank">public will get a chance</a> to express their thoughts on <a href="http://www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/archive/July62012/PROPOSED/25.HEALTH%20SERVICES.html#140" target="_blank">proposed changes</a> to the Texas Women’s Health Program – what used to be known as the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.</p><p>The program provides health services to about 130,000 low-income Texas women. It has been mostly paid for with federal funding. But when Texas lawmakers decided to enforce a state rule that the program could not support clinics affiliated with abortions, the Obama Administration vowed to cut off the funding. When Medicaid funding is cut off in November, Governor Rick Perry says Texas will pay for the program. The details of how the state will take on the funding have not yet been outlined.</p><p>Meanwhile, <a href="http://kutnews.org/post/planned-parenthood-sues-halt-exclusion-program" target="_blank">Planned Parenthood is suing</a> in hopes of retaining funding. Planned Parenthood says their clinics provide important health services to women who would otherwise have a hard time getting them. Tue, 04 Sep 2012 13:54:49 +0000 Hady Karl Mawajdeh & Laura Rice 5008 at http://kut.org AM Update: Hearing on Women's Health Program, Lawmakers to Discuss Texas Prisons, New Rules for CDLs AM Update: Fire Dept. Hiring Spree, Unlawful Immigration Services, Juvenile Transfers Continue http://kut.org/post/am-update-fire-dept-hiring-spree-unlawful-immigration-services-juvenile-transfers-continue <p><strong>AFD Gets Money to Hire More Firefighters</strong></p><p>The Austin Fire Department is getting more than $5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hire 36 firefighters.</p><p><a href="http://www.fema.gov/staffing-adequate-fire-emergency-response-grants/staffing-adequate-fire-emergency-response-veterans" target="_blank">The FEMA grant</a> will help AFD staff four people on every engine &ndash; that&rsquo;s the standard set by the <a href="http://www.nfpa.org/index.asp" target="_blank">National Fire Protection Agency</a>.</p><p>The money will cover the salaries of the firefighters for the first two years. AFD will take over the cost in year three.</p><p><strong>Austin Organization Charged With Providing Unlawful Services</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.oag.state.tx.us/">Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott</a> has charged an Austin group with providing unlawful immigration services and defrauding its clients. Thu, 26 Jul 2012 13:25:00 +0000 Mary Mattia & Laura Rice 4761 at http://kut.org AM Update: Fire Dept. Hiring Spree, Unlawful Immigration Services, Juvenile Transfers Continue AM Update: Inmate Executed With Single Drug, Juvenile Inmate Violence, Dewhurst and Cruz's History http://kut.org/post/am-update-inmate-executed-single-drug-juvenile-inmate-violence-dewhurst-and-cruzs-history <p><strong>Texas Inmate Put to Death Using Single-Drug Concoction</strong></p><p>The State of Texas executed <a href="http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_info/hearnyokamon.html" target="_blank">Yokamon Hearn</a> yesterday evening. He was put to death for the 1998 carjacking and murder of 23-year-old Frank Meziere in Dallas.</p><p>Hearn was the sixth prisoner executed in the state so far this year.</p><p>He was the first put to death using a <a href="http://www.kutnews.org/post/texas-changing-its-lethal-injection-protocol" target="_blank">single drug lethal injection procedure</a>. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice switched to the single drug because of a shortage of the two other drugs normally used in lethal injections. Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:00:50 +0000 Mary Mattia & Laura Rice 4715 at http://kut.org AM Update: Inmate Executed With Single Drug, Juvenile Inmate Violence, Dewhurst and Cruz's History AM Update: STAAR Retesting Begins, Legislators Look at Funding, Durant to Olympics http://kut.org/post/am-update-staar-retesting-begins-legislators-look-funding-durant-olympics <p><strong>STAAR Retesting Begins Today</strong></p><p>Students across Texas who didn&rsquo;t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin <a href="http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index3.aspx?id=3635&amp;menu_id=793" target="_blank">retaking the tests today</a>.</p><p>Last year&rsquo;s ninth-graders were the only students who had to pass the tests to graduate on time as seniors. Next year, the passing requirement will affect both ninth and tenth-graders. The STAAR test will <a href="http://www.txetests.com/FAQS/index.asp?c=%6011%60&amp;p=%602%60" target="_blank">continue to phase-in to each grade</a>, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.</p><p>Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student&rsquo;s final grade in a subject. Mon, 09 Jul 2012 12:29:33 +0000 Mary Mattia & Laura Rice 4638 at http://kut.org AM Update: STAAR Retesting Begins, Legislators Look at Funding, Durant to Olympics Report: Texas Prisoners Spending More Time Behind Bars http://kut.org/post/report-texas-prisoners-spending-more-time-behind-bars <p>The amount of time Texas prisoners spent behind bars increased by a third since 1990, according to <a href="http://www.pewstates.org/uploadedFiles/PCS_Assets/2012/Prison_Time_Served.pdf">a report by the Pew Center on the States</a>. The average inmate spent an extra eight months in prison in 2009 compared to 1990, costing the state an additional $620 million that year.&nbsp;</p><p>The average prisoner in Texas served 2 years, nine months in prison in 2009. The typical cost of keeping someone incarcerated in Texas <a href="http://www.pewstates.org/research/state-fact-sheets/time-served-in-texas-85899396391">about $1,800 per month.&nbsp;</a></p><p>Much of the increase in time served happened in the 1990s, <a href="http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2012/06/prisoners-relased-in-2009-cost-texas.html">according to Scott Henson of <em>Grits for Breakfast</em></a>, a blog focused on criminal justice in Texas.</p><p>&ldquo;At a time when the Texas legislature has massive budget problems and the [Texas] Department of Criminal Justice is falling short on its funding for prisoner health care and can&rsquo;t afford its treatment services, this is a huge number,&quot; Henson said.&nbsp;&quot;This is a lot of money.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p> Thu, 07 Jun 2012 19:13:27 +0000 Nathan Bernier 4425 at http://kut.org Report: Texas Prisoners Spending More Time Behind Bars Prison Radio Show is Inmates' Link to the Outside World http://kut.org/post/prison-radio-show-inmates-link-outside-world <p>On Friday nights, in prison cells across East and Southeast Texas, a window opens to the outside world. For two hours, a Houston-based radio show breaks the isolation of the incarcerated, linking inmates to families, friends and life outside lockup.</p><p>&ldquo;<a href="http://www.theprisonshow.org/">The Prison Show</a>,&rdquo; which started in 1980 on KPFT, is part news program and part call-in radio show. Some Texas inmates have listened to their own weddings on the show, with the new spouse and a proxy exchanging vows in the studio. Others have listened to their children grow up on the radio, hearing news of soccer games and report cards from children they never see.</p><p>And for inmates who are no longer in prison, the show is familiar in a world that feels foreign.</p><p> Mon, 19 Mar 2012 13:38:17 +0000 Holly Heinrich for the Texas Tribune 3858 at http://kut.org Prison Radio Show is Inmates' Link to the Outside World Time Runs Out for the Texas Prison Rodeo http://kut.org/post/time-runs-out-texas-prison-rodeo <p>The home of the Texas Prison Rodeo is being demolished, according to <a href="http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/01/11/3652241/famed-texas-prison-rodeo-arena.html">the Associated Press</a>.</p><p>While an event hasn&rsquo;t been held on the Huntsville prison grounds since 1986, the rodeo has a rich history dating back decades.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xxt01">Handbook of Texas Online</a> says once the rodeo was created in 1931, it was a near-instant success: &ldquo;Within two years public attendance swelled from a handful of outsiders to almost 15,000, prompting prison officials to erect wooden stands and charge admission. The revenue raised covered costs and subsidized an education and recreation fund that provided perquisites from textbooks and dentures to Christmas turkeys.&rdquo; Wed, 11 Jan 2012 22:09:58 +0000 Wells Dunbar 3436 at http://kut.org Time Runs Out for the Texas Prison Rodeo As Cost-Saving Measure, Texas Prisons Cut Lunch On Weekends http://kut.org/post/cost-saving-measure-texas-prisons-cut-lunch-weekends The state of Texas already made waves in September when it decided to <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/09/23/140735845/no-more-special-last-meals-for-death-row-inmates-in-texas">stop honoring death row inmates' final meal requests</a>. Fri, 21 Oct 2011 18:34:38 +0000 Eyder Peralta 2803 at http://kut.org Texas Inmates Complain of Sweltering Prison Conditions http://kut.org/post/texas-inmates-complain-sweltering-prison-conditions <p>In letters from his prison cell at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Susan Fenner&rsquo;s son describes miserably hot and dangerous conditions. The temperature is more than 100 degrees outside, and the heat radiates through his tiny un-air conditioned box of a cell in administrative segregation.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not much circulation, and it&rsquo;s just horrible,&rdquo; said Fenner, who is executive director of the Texas Inmate Family Association.</p> Tue, 09 Aug 2011 21:42:51 +0000 Brandi Grissom, Texas Tribune 2173 at http://kut.org Texas Inmates Complain of Sweltering Prison Conditions