AM Update 7/26/12
8:25 am
Thu July 26, 2012

AM Update: Fire Dept. Hiring Spree, Unlawful Immigration Services, Juvenile Transfers Continue

AFD Gets Money to Hire More Firefighters

The Austin Fire Department is getting more than $5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hire 36 firefighters.

The FEMA grant will help AFD staff four people on every engine – that’s the standard set by the National Fire Protection Agency.

The money will cover the salaries of the firefighters for the first two years. AFD will take over the cost in year three.

Austin Organization Charged With Providing Unlawful Services

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged an Austin group with providing unlawful immigration services and defrauding its clients.

Abbott says Elizabeth Gabrielle Paneque, director of Just for People, Inc., and her affiliates violated Texas law, threatened clients, and charged customers thousands of dollars for services that were never provided – like providing work visas.

“Texas law is quite clear about who is authorized to provide immigration consulting services – Just for People does not pass the test," Abbott says in a statement.

The attorney general's office says neither the organization nor its affiliates are registered non-profit organizations that are allowed to give immigration services or representation.

The Travis County District Court has frozen assets and mandated a temporary restraining order against Just for People, Inc., its directors and affiliate Lead God.

Movement of Juveniles to Adult Prisons Continues, Speeds Up

Controversy lingers over the new juvenile detention reviews as interim executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Jay Kimbrough, completes his first month on the job.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Kimbrough to asses and manage security issues in the six facilities.

KUT's reporting partner the Texas Tribune reports Kimbrough is leading an effort to review all youth in the system – not just those who have a history of violence while in the centers. Officials are beginning with youth who have fixed sentences and will look at reasons for being committed, length of sentence, and if they have a history of violence behind bars.

The idea is to collect a baseline history of the youth so that those committing new assaults can be referred faster to a court. If referred and based on the evidence provided by TJJD, a judge has the ability to transfer youth to an adult penitentiary. According to the Tribune, in 2011, 60 out of 206 youth who met criteria for transfer were sent to adult prison. So far this year, 50 out of 157 eligible juveniles have been transferred.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, told the Tribune that more transfers are needed. He cited a case where a camera caught several juveniles having a “summit meeting” about how gangs would run the detention facility. Whitmire believes youth who have come of age and are continuing violence while in the facilities should be held accountable for their adult actions.

But Michele Deitch, criminal justice policy expert and senior lecturer at UT-Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, disagrees with this process. She told the Tribune that officials need to focus on why violence is happening, they need to re-vamp their own system, and they need more emphasis on staff training. Deitch also says that the TJJD shouldn’t start with youth who have determinate sentences because research shows that there is more violence among those with indeterminate sentences.  

On July, 17, Kimbrough asked for an unannounced inspection of all TJJD facilities. A report of the findings will be available early next week.