Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Flickr/Joe Gratz (CC0 1.0)

From Texas Standard:

A Smith County judge recently ordered a 21-year-old man to marry his 19-year-old girlfriend after he assaulted her ex-boyfriend.

The story has gone viral, but as strange as it may sound, this unorthodox sentence is just one of a handful of “shaming”-type rulings that have made headlines in the past few years.

Evan Young is an attorney with Baker Botts in Austin, and he says the marriage sentence isn’t all that uncommon. “The reality is that this is one of many types of sentences that a judge might try to impose,” Young says.

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From Texas Standard:

For 35 years, Jerry Hartfield sat in a prison awaiting trial — and now he’s finally getting one. Hartfield was convicted in 1977 of murdering a woman in Bay City. He was sentenced to death, even though by today’s standards, his IQ of 67 is considered mentally impaired.

Three years after that conviction, in 1980, it was overturned because of problems with jury selection. The governor of Texas at the time, Mark White, commuted the sentence to life in prison. The problem? The underlying conviction has been invalidated, so there wasn’t even a conviction to commute. Hartfield waited for years in prison for a trial that never came.

Randy Belice

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Joyce Ann Brown founder, president and CEO of Mothers (Fathers) For The Advancement of Social Systems, Inc. On June 13, 2015, Brown passed away in Dallas (TX) after suffering a heart attack. She was 68.

Still Burning/flickr

Texas prisons kept 6,564 people in solitary confinement in 2014, and civil rights groups in Texas have a new report out that argues the state is using what it calls administrative segregation way too much: for an average of four years per inmate, and in some cases, as long as two decades.

Inmates are locked up alone in a 60-square-foot cell most of the day in Texas, and researchers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project say that worsens mental illness and makes inmates more dangerous to guards and to the public. It also costs taxpayers at least $46 million a year in extra security costs, according to the report.

flickr.com/home_of_chaos

UPDATE 11/26/14: Visiting judge Doug Shaver rejected a request Tuesday for additional DNA testing in Rodney Reed’s case.

Judge Shaver said the additional DNA testing would delay Reed’s execution. His execution date was moved from January to March 5th.

ORIGINAL STORY: A Texas court will hear testimony today about whether or not to allow DNA testing of additional evidence in the murder case of Rodney Reed. He was convicted in 1998 of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites near Bastrop, Texas. Reed says he is innocent.

Some of Stites' family members are convinced law enforcement got the wrong man, and that law enforcement should look within their own ranks to find Stites' real killer.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Because Texas spends millions of dollars a year on geriatric prison inmates to treat chronic health conditions, lawmakers are discussing options to change this.

Next session, members of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee expect to discuss geriatric parole, also known as medically recommended parole, which would allow some elderly inmates to finish out their sentence outside the prison system. 

Michael Stravato/Texas Tribune

The start of the next Texas legislative session is getting close enough that advocacy groups are urging support for their areas of interest. Today, a local organization released a report [click here for the PDF]  that suggests if the state spends more money on peer support groups in county jails, the recidivism rate would drop.

In recent years, law enforcement in Texas has been vocal about county jails serving as de facto mental health providers for inmates.

Caleb Bryant Miller/KUT News

Researchers at The Pew Charitable Trusts have a new report out on how much states are spending on inmate health care. Between 2001 and 2008, Texas had a decrease in this spending, but since then, it’s gone up again.