prisons

TDCJ Sued Over Heat
4:09 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Texas Department of Criminal Justice Sued Over Inhumane Prisoner Treatment

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.

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.

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.

Read more
Criminal Justice
11:56 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Solitary Confinement Study Approved but Lacks Funding

Texas lawmakers have yet to review the state's solitary confinement, including costs, frequency and effects of the policy on inmates.
Caleb Bryant Miller for Texas Tribune

Last year, lawmakers approved and Gov.Rick Perry signed a bill that requires adetailed review of the use of solitary confinement in Texas prisons.

Four months after the measure became law, though, the committee charged with hiring an independent party to study solitary confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice hasn’t met and has no intention to.

Read more
Crime & Justice
10:19 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Study Shows Texans Support Changing How The State Punishes Drug Crimes

Rather than locking people up for non-violent drug offenses, the latest poll shows Texans favor rehab, which experts say also saves money.
Flickr user 710928003 cc

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 9:43 am

A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’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.  

Read more
Austin
2:55 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Texas Civil Rights Project Files Suit Against Private Corporation Running Dawson State Jail

Brian McGiverin, attorney at Texas Civil Rights Project, Kymberlie Quong Charles of Grassroots Leadership and Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership get ready to address their lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation of America.
Bobby Blanchard for KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project 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.

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.

Read more
Politics
5:30 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Bill Would Assess Condition of Inmates in Solitary Confinement

About 2,000 inmates may have mental illness or developmental disability. A Senate bill aims to learn more.
Liang Shi for KUT

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.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was considering the bill Wednesday afternoon.

Read more
Criminal Justice
12:15 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Report: Adjust Policy on Who Gets Sent to State Jails

Nick Cowie for Texas Tribune

A new report argues that state jails aren't meeting their goal of helping to 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.

The report, published Monday by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, 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.

Read more
Criminal Justice
3:57 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Report: Fewer Ex-Cons Returning to Texas Prisons

The recidivism rate for ex-cons in Texas has fallen 11 percent - meaning less former felons returning behind bars.
flickr.com/hmk

Fewer Texas ex-convicts are returning to prison, according to a report released today by the National Reentry Resource Center.

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.

Other states with significant drops in their recidivism rates were Ohio, Kansas and Michigan.

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 2008 Second Chance Act. 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.

Read more
Austin
1:02 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Ex-Offenders Invited to Weigh-In on Reentry Process

Caleb Miller for KUT News

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.

The Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable’s Ex-Offenders’ Council will make recommendations for policy changes that make the transition from prison to society easier.

A few years ago, the group the helped change how city and county job applications ask about criminal background.

Jeri Houchins is the group’s Administrative Director. She says it’s important for those who have experienced reentry to have a voice in any possible changes.

Read more
AM Update: 9/18/12
8:57 am
Tue September 18, 2012

AM Update: More HID Global Incentive Talk, County Prison Problems, UT Offers Real Estate Certificate

Flexible ID tags are some of the items manufactured by HID Global—a company that the county is now considering offering economic incentives to.
HID Global

Traffic is now clearing up 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:

More HID Global Incentives?

Travis County Commissioners will meet in executive session today to talk about whether the county will offer economic incentives to a company that’s considering relocating to the area.

The State of Texas is already offering HID Global $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. And the City of Austin is considering offering the company close to a million dollars in rebates on taxes for real estate and equipment purchases. The city plans to hold a public hearing on the issue Sept. 27.

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.

Problems in Texas County Prisons

Today Texas lawmakers will take a look at problems facing county jails.

Read more
Texas
3:42 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Cell Phone Blockers Coming to Two Texas Prisons

Two Texas prisons will soon block most cell phone calls.
flickr.com/jonjon_2k8

Some Texas prisons will soon be equipped with technology that blocks most cell phone calls.

Inmates are not supposed to have cell phones. But officials at the Stiles Prison Unit in Beaumont and the McConnell Unit outside of Corpus Christi say it’s been a challenge to keep them out.

Brad Livingston is the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He explains the technology limits which calls can be made.

“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.”

Read more
AM Update: 9/4/12
8:54 am
Tue September 4, 2012

AM Update: Hearing on Women's Health Program, Lawmakers to Discuss Texas Prisons, New Rules for CDLs

Protestors Rally in Austin during March rally.
flickr.com/scATX

It's back to work today for many after a long Labor Day weekend. Expect another day in the triple digits.

Public Invited to Comment on Texas Women’s Health Program

Today the public will get a chance to express their thoughts on proposed changes to the Texas Women’s Health Program – what used to be known as the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

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.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is suing 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.

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

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

A new grant will allow AFD to hire dozens of firefighters.
KUT News

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.

Read more
AM Update 7/19/12
9:00 am
Thu July 19, 2012

AM Update: Inmate Executed With Single Drug, Juvenile Inmate Violence, Dewhurst and Cruz's History

Hearn was the first Texas inmate to be executed using a single-drug.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas Inmate Put to Death Using Single-Drug Concoction

The State of Texas executed Yokamon Hearn yesterday evening. He was put to death for the 1998 carjacking and murder of 23-year-old Frank Meziere in Dallas.

Hearn was the sixth prisoner executed in the state so far this year.

He was the first put to death using a single drug lethal injection procedure. 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.

Read more
AM Update 7/9/12
7:29 am
Mon July 9, 2012

AM Update: STAAR Retesting Begins, Legislators Look at Funding, Durant to Olympics

Kevin Durant, right, is nominated to play for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London.

STAAR Retesting Begins Today

Students across Texas who didn’t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin retaking the tests today.

Last year’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 continue to phase-in to each grade, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.

Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student’s final grade in a subject.

Read more
justice
2:13 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

Report: Texas Prisoners Spending More Time Behind Bars

Texas Tribune

The amount of time Texas prisoners spent behind bars increased by a third since 1990, according to a report by the Pew Center on the States. The average inmate spent an extra eight months in prison in 2009 compared to 1990, costing the state an additional $620 million that year. 

The average prisoner in Texas served 2 years, nine months in prison in 2009. The typical cost of keeping someone incarcerated in Texas about $1,800 per month. 

Much of the increase in time served happened in the 1990s, according to Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast, a blog focused on criminal justice in Texas.

“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’t afford its treatment services, this is a huge number," Henson said. "This is a lot of money.” 

Read more
Texas
8:38 am
Mon March 19, 2012

Prison Radio Show is Inmates' Link to the Outside World

David Babb, the host of the Prison Show broadcast from KPFT, prepares to go on the ari in Houston Friday Feb 24, 2012.
Photo by Michael Stravato for the Texas Tribune

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.

The Prison Show,” 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.

And for inmates who are no longer in prison, the show is familiar in a world that feels foreign.

Read more
Texas
4:09 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Time Runs Out for the Texas Prison Rodeo

Detail from a 1964 Texas Prison Rodeo program.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/e06158

The home of the Texas Prison Rodeo is being demolished, according to the Associated Press.

While an event hasn’t been held on the Huntsville prison grounds since 1986, the rodeo has a rich history dating back decades.

The Handbook of Texas Online says once the rodeo was created in 1931, it was a near-instant success: “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.”

Read more
Justice
1:34 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

As Cost-Saving Measure, Texas Prisons Cut Lunch On Weekends

Originally published on Fri October 21, 2011 1:30 pm

The state of Texas already made waves in September when it decided to stop honoring death row inmates' final meal requests. The decision was prompted by the huge meal requested by white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer.

Read more
Texas
4:42 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

Texas Inmates Complain of Sweltering Prison Conditions

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

In letters from his prison cell at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Susan Fenner’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.

“There’s not much circulation, and it’s just horrible,” said Fenner, who is executive director of the Texas Inmate Family Association.

Read more