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#Txlege should use savings from closed prison units to fund needed treatment services

The Texas Legislative Budge Board has "Recommended funding maintains correctional security operations, with a decrease totaling $148 million, primarily related to recent facility closures and 2020–21 repair/renovation projects." Grits is glad for more prison closures, but it's a mistake simply to reduce the budget by the amount of those units' costs. TDCJ has significant unfilled needs that those savings should pay for.  One of the biggest: The agency doesn't fund treatment service sufficie...
Tags: Law, Gritsforbreakfast, TDCJ, Texas Legislative Budge Board


Plano police do best 'Cartman' impersonation arresting black kid for walking home in the snow

If you needed another example why the Texas Legislature should forbid police from arresting people for Class C misdemeanors, here's yet another poster-child case for the history books.Rodney Reese, an 18-year old black man living in Plano, was walking home from his job at the Walmart during the Snowpocalypse when police officers stopped him ostensibly for a "wellness check." Carrying a plastic bag, underdressed for the cold in a short-sleeve shirt, he told them he didn't want their help and was ...
Tags: Texas, Law, Walmart, Plano, Reese, Texas Legislature, Southpark, Puente, Gritsforbreakfast, Cartman, Dillon Puente, Keller TX, Rodney Reese


Radio silence re: ransomware attack on Texas courts

Your correspondent received a notice my information was in a data breach at a company called Blackbaud which is a digital platform for managing nonprofit donors. The company paid a ransomware demand, despite advisories against doing so from the US Treasury. Insurance companies, by contrast, have defended ransomware payouts. This reminds me we've received almost zero information about the ransomware attack on Texas courts last year, and no journalist of whom I'm aware has dug into the topic beyon...
Tags: Texas, Law, Gritsforbreakfast, Forensic Science Commission, Office of Court Administration, US Treasury Insurance


Texas oyster crimes are no joke and a symptom of broader problems

This blog has spent an inordinate amount of time over the years focused on Texas' array of oyster-related criminal offenses, to the point that Politifact once did a fact check on my claims. They found them "Mostly True," with the "mostly" caveat being that one source put the numbers even higher than I'd said!Marc Levin, who recently left the Texas Public Policy Foundation to become general counsel at the new Council on Criminal Justice, first launched this meme as a way to critique overcriminal...
Tags: Twitter, Texas, Law, Legislature, Marc Levin, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Joe Fox, Gritsforbreakfast, Jonathan Simon, Hurricane Harvey, Council on Criminal Justice, Crime Texas


Crime, Bail, and the Media: A century-old recipe for error and injustice

Grits readers have seen me complain about sensationalist, de-contextualized media coverage of crime and punishment nearly since this humble blog's inception. Turns out, if your correspondent had been transported in a time machine to the early 1920s, the problem would be even worse and Grits may well have gone clean out of my mind.Recently, I ran across what appears to be the earliest quantitative analysis of media crime coverage in America in a massive, 700+-page document titled, "Criminal Justi...
Tags: Google, Law, America, Houston, Cleveland, Criminal Justice, Greg Abbott, Clyde, Houston Chronicle, CLEVELAND Ohio, Bonnie, John Dillinger, Chaney, Tuff, Acevedo, Harris County Jail


Deep in the Weeds: Sandra-Bland data provides first-ever detail on scope of arrests, searches at Texas traffic stops

For reasons Grits fails to understand, neither reporters, academics, nor independent researchers have mined Texas' extensive "racial profiling" dataset extensively, though it's one of the most robust quantitative treasure troves of data on police-traffic stops of which I'm aware, anywhere. To a large extent, new data reported after 2017's Sandra Bland Act (we were given data collection in lieu of a policy ban on Class C arrests) gave us a big-picture overview of what goes on at Texas traffic sto...
Tags: Texas, Law, Sandra Bland, Gritsforbreakfast, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement About


Beyond "aid" to law enforcement: Crime-lab independence speaks to scientists' differing priorities from cops

The debate over making Austin's crime lab independent from the police department - which the City Council will take up on Thursday - inadvertently helps demonstrate why such change is necessary.Austin's city manager Spencer Cronk for years has balked at making the crime lab independent. Now that the community has made such "decoupling" a part of "reimagining" the police budget, he has had little choice but to embrace the idea. But he's doing so in the most tepid, pro-cop way imaginable.Here's th...
Tags: Gritsforbreakfast


Lots of local Texas #cjreform action, even as the #txlege is slow as Christmas

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:TX Senate Committees May Only Meet 2-3 Times: The Texas Legislature's ramp up remains slow as Christmas; a few things are happening, but "not much" appears to be the new normal. On its website, the state prosecutors' association told its members, "don’t be surprised if many Senate committees hold no more than two or three hearings on Senate bills for the entirety of this regular session." Yikes! Usually, you might see 8 or so.Vanis...
Tags: Twitter, Texas, Law, Senate, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Sandra Bland, El Paso, Ny Times, Spencer, Harris County, Maurice, Maurice Chammah


Poll: Texans overwhelmingly support Senfronia Thompson's "George Floyd Act"

The University of Houston polled 1,329 Texans on numerous criminal-justice topics, including state Rep. Senfronia Thompson's George Floyd Act. Their poll question did a pretty good job of summarizing the legislation: They polled both the act as a whole and each individual component. Opposition was incredibly low in every case: Overall: [Author: Gritsforbreakfast]
Tags: Law, University Of Houston, Gritsforbreakfast, Senfronia Thompson


Why the #txlege should add point-and-report to statewide police shooting data

In a roundup a few weeks ago, Grits pointed to a new academic study analyzing Dallas police shootings which associated a "point and report" policy with a reduced number of people shot because the officer falsely thought they were armed. Now, the authors have written an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News about their findings. Here's a notable excerpt:According to the Policing Project at NYU School of Law, police reform falls into two categories: front-end vs. back-end accountability measures. The f...
Tags: Texas, Law, Police, Georgia, New Orleans, Dallas, New York City Police Department, Dallas Morning News, Charleston, Dallas Police Department, DPD, Gritsforbreakfast, Use Of Force, NYU School of Law, Texas Justice Initiative, Baltimore Chicago Cleveland Dallas


Please prove me wrong: Jose Garza wants to make Grits eat my words

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza is trying to change Grits' mind about "progressive prosecutors." He hasn't succeeded yet, but in the early days of his administration, he's giving it the ol' college try.In the last week, Garza announced indictments of two officers who'd allegedly engaged in excessive force but weren't punished by police management, and said a grand jury would soon consider charges in the deaths of the police officers who killed Mike Ramos and Javier Ambler. Then yester...
Tags: Texas, Law, Bilbo, Apd, Fox Mulder, Moore, Ken Paxton, Corpus Christi, Manley, Jimenez, Garza, Houston Dallas San Antonio, Travis County, Gritsforbreakfast, Mike Ramos, Brian Manley


Review of Austin police training videos finds bias and selective deescalation tactics

A community panel charged with reviewing video materials used for teaching Austin police cadets at the academy has completed its work, and the results are damning. From the executive summary, here's the meat of their critique:The overall library of videos selected perpetuated dangerous racial and class stereotypes that displayed working class people and communities of color as disproportionate recipients of violent and deadly responses from police. People of color seldom benefited from crisis in...
Tags: Law, Austin, Steve Adler, Equity Office, KXAN, Gritsforbreakfast, Spencer Cronk, McKenzie Kelly


When the jail is full, Sheriff, what you gonna do?

Grits noticed the bad news that the Harris County Jail population has ballooned back up near capacity, reported Gabby Banks at the Houston Chronicle. Rather than a detailed policy analysis, which I've been offering up on this blog for a decade-and-a-half when it comes to the Harris County Jail, let's change things up on a Friday afternoon and present a few lines of verse, instead:When the jail is full, Oh Sheriff, what you gonna do?The cops they keep on bringing them but the courts don't pass th...
Tags: Law, Sheriff, Houston, Harris County Jail, Gritsforbreakfast, Gabby Banks


Just the (fake) facts, ma'am: Police unions promote alternative reality on new anti-reform site

Several police unions have joined together to create a new website called Texas Police Facts aiming to convince the Texas Legislature there's no need for police reform in 2021. Regular readers won't be surprised to learn the site elides core issues and misrepresents key facts.Take, for example, the "FACT" they cite to say "claims that minorities are substantially more likely to be contacted by the police are inaccurate." As evidence, they point to this research brief from the DOJ's Bureau of Jus...
Tags: Florida, Texas, Law, Houston, Doj, Bureau Of Justice Statistics, Legislature, Texas Commission, Gritsforbreakfast, San Antonio Police Department, Texas Police Facts, Tbls, TX Sunset Commission, San Antonio PD Grits


Roundup: Texas police-reform news, bail update, jury trials during COVID, and other stories

Lets' clear a few browser tabs with a roundup of recent items that may have escaped Texans' attention while our Attorney General was in Washington D.C. inciting mayhem.Dallas bail lawsuit to move forward. Bail litigation in Dallas can move forward to trial after a 5th Circuit decision, but the array of potential remedies has been narrowed. See Dallas News coverage. More on this soon. In related news, Tarrant County announced they'd begin using a new risk-assessment instrument when setting bail. ...
Tags: Florida, Texas, Law, Colorado, Washington, New York Times, Dallas, Houston, Roma, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Tarrant County, TX, Texas Tribune, 5th Circuit, McManus


Shocking allegations of hazing and a 'culture of violence' at Austin's police academy

Last month, Grits argued that Austin's police academy needed stem to stern revision and Mayor Steve Adler's push to re-open it in March was premature until the results of several, ongoing audit components were complete and the scope of needed revisions was clear.Just before the New Year's holiday, the city released the first of these audits from its Equity Office, and it was a scathing and unabashed take down of the APD training process. The report "recommends that City leaders suspend all cadet...
Tags: Law, US, Austin, Apd, Bureau Of Justice Statistics, Black, Steve Adler, Equity Office, Gritsforbreakfast, Austin PD


Keller PD arrest puts a family face on 64k Class C arrests at Texas traffic stops

Out of Keller, TX comes the Lone Star State's latest police misconduct case with bystander video gone viral. Cops used a Class C arrest over a "wide right turn" to search Dillon Puente's vehicle when he refused consent to search, then used excessive force against his father, Marco, in retaliation for recording the incident. They arrested Dad on a phony obstructing the roadway charge. See WFAA-TV's coverage. and a New York Times story about the family's lawsuit.The Texas Legislature bears as much...
Tags: Texas, Law, New York Times, Rick Perry, US supreme court, Sandra Bland, Keller, Marco, Lone Star State, Perry, WFAA, Texas Legislature, Texas Commission, Atwater, Appleseed, Gritsforbreakfast


What does a successful "Defund the Police" campaign actually look like? Reconsidering Texas' abolition of Tulia-style drug task forces in light of 2020's #DefundThePolice frame

In 2020, the phrase "defund the police" captured the public imagination, for good or ill, and became the centerpiece of conservative messaging against Democrats in the fall. But it wasn't that long ago that Texas defunded dozens of regional drug task forces without any of the #DefundThePolice backlash. At their height, those task forces collectively made around 12,000 arrests per year (see FN 26 in this report), but in 2006, Gov. Rick Perry eliminated their funding with the stroke of a pen, the ...
Tags: Texas, Law, Obama, Austin, House, Rick Perry, City Council, Doj, Drug Policy Alliance, Legislature, Perry, DPS, Byrne, Rio Grande, Austin Police Department, Texas Legislature


Limiting police pursuits would save lives but cops like them too much

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo says HPD won't change its policies after three high-speed chases in one night, all of them initially stemming from suspects who fled at traffic stops, resulted in two innocent bystanders killed. According to press reports, Houston cops on average undertake 2-3 high-speed pursuits per day. Overuse of police pursuits has been a hobbyhorse of this blog for many years: High-speed chases are among the most dangerous things police officers do and result in many prevent...
Tags: Law, Houston, Usa Today, Vaughan, IACP, Acevedo, Express News, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Institute of Justice, Gritsforbreakfast, SA Express News, Cynthia Lum, Blues Brothers Grits, Criminal Law Handbook Nolo Press


How should journalists cover blatantly false or misleading statements from self-interested pols?

Last week, Grits considered responding to Austin-bashing press conference by the US Attorney for Texas' Western District, but the phony outrage was so tired and lame I couldn't muster the energy. Luckily, at least some in the Austin press corps - notably  Jolie McCullough at the Texas Tribune and Mike Clark Madison at the Austin Chronicle - are learning not to take the bait.It's all just so silly. The murder increase in Fort Worth has been larger than in Austin, and they started with many more ...
Tags: Texas, Law, US, Austin, Fort Worth, Trump, Greg Abbott, Mike, Legislature, Jolie, Texas Tribune, Austin Chronicle, McCullough, Western District of Texas, Gritsforbreakfast, Trump Administration


Five random thoughts and a minor boast

Apropos of nothing, here are five random thoughts and a minor boast.1. Say what you will about the "defund" message, but there's more activity going on around the state regarding police reform, not to mention more bills filed on the topic at the Texas Legislature, than at any time this century. None of it would be happening if it weren't for the protests this summer. It's easy to forget that this time two years ago, the reform movement was more or less dead in the water.2. On top of COVID and ev...
Tags: Texas, Law, New York City, Karen, Gop, Willie Nelson, Texas Rangers, Houston Chronicle, Nieman Labs, Brown County, Austin Chronicle, Texas Legislature, DALHART, Shaver, Gritsforbreakfast, Texas Observer


Beyond the Bait and Switch: What we really need from police training reform

Grits has often been critical when reform demands aimed at police are rebuffed by calls for additional training. In the political arena, new training is often proposed (usually by the police unions) as a substitute for policy changes that would actually transform IRL practices. So, for example, advocates called for eliminating arrests for Class C misdemeanors following Sandra Bland's death, and instead got implicit-bias trainings that don't work. I get frustrated, admittedly, with the bait and s...
Tags: Texas, Law, Germany, Time, US, Austin, City Council, Council, Bureau Of Justice Statistics, Sunset, Sandra Bland, Houston Chronicle, Legislature, Houston Police Department, Gritsforbreakfast, Mike Ramos


Galveston has a Civilian Review Board that's somewhere on the spectrum from lame to non-existent

Grits earlier mentioned the report from the Kinder Institute at Rice analyzing civilian oversight systems in Texas. The one in San Antonio, they noted, was so obscure that members of the public calling for oversight didn't know it existed. The SA board was the only one of those studied by the Kinder Institute which wasn't independent of the police department.Grits learned today, though, that their list was incomplete. Galveston has a civilian review board which analyzes the sufficiency of Intern...
Tags: Texas, Law, City Council, Galveston Daily News, Santa Fe, San Antonio, Rice, Internal Affairs, Harris County, Galveston, Austin Houston, Tillotson, Gritsforbreakfast, Kinder Institute, Dolph Tillotson, Civilian Review Board


Top Ten Texas Criminal Justice Stories of 2020: Looking back at a crazy, (literally) sick year

It's been a crazy year,  both for me personally (I underwent throat-cancer treatment and lost nearly 100 pounds) and for the state and nation generally, between COVID, the Trump un-election, and the massive protests surrounding Houstonite George Floyd's death that in many ways defined the year.If we were ranking criminal-justice stories, those protests would be the biggest one from any traditional newsroom perspective, even if the coronavirus in jails and prisons claimed more lives. But those pr...
Tags: Texas, Law, Minneapolis, US, Ransomware, Austin, Dallas, Houston, City Council, Apd, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Texas Rangers, Abbott, Trump, Greg Abbott


Policing protests, K-9 units barking up wrong tree, the 'toothless' agency regulating Texas cops, and other stories

I've been working on a larger project and ignoring the blog a bit this week, but here are a few odds and ends that deserve Grits readers' attention:TCOLE Sunset coverage. The Houston Chronicle published a nice story on the scathing Sunset report on the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the agency that licenses and regulates Texas police officers, jailers, and 911 operators. "[I]n Texas," declared sunset commission staff, "the regulation of law enforcement is 'by and large, toothless.'” See re...
Tags: Texas, Law, Washington Post, Austin, Houston Chronicle, Texas Legislature, Gritsforbreakfast, Texas Observer, Fort Bend County, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Michael Barajas, TCOLE Sunset, Occupy Movement Ferguson


Badcopping, pretrial diversion for profit, getting around Miranda, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:Corruption, thy name is 'pretrial diversion'. A Texas DA in the Panhandle charged illegal pretrial diversion fees to criminal defendants then gave huge donations to local charities, the Houston Chronicle's Eric Dexheimer reported recently. He also maxxed out charges to defendants who won't play ball. E.g., they charged drivers coming back from Colorado with a few marijuana gummies with first degree felony charges, comparable to if ...
Tags: Texas, Law, Colorado, US, Austin, Houston, Miranda, Fort Worth, Jones, New Braunfels, Houston Chronicle, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Schertz, KXAN, Gritsforbreakfast, TDCJ


Fort Worth police pull rug out from under Tarrant DA on no-pot-arrest policy

What the hell is happening in Fort Worth over marijuana enforcement? Today brings two contradictory news reports on the topic from Cowtown.First, the Dallas News reported on Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson's new program, announced Monday, for Class B pot cases. Wilson is offering to dismiss charges if someone passes a drug test for three months running.But seemingly in response to the prosecutor's announcement, yesterday evening the local NBC affiliate ran a story announcing that:...
Tags: Texas, Nbc, Law, Marijuana, Fort Worth, Wilson, Tarrant County, Don, Gritsforbreakfast, Sharen Wilson, Cowtown First the Dallas News, Capt Mark Barthen, Barthen


Lower Texas prison population numbers stem from declining arrests

Grits has remarked recently on the eye-popping reduction in the Texas prison population this year. But this year's declines aren't the only un-anticipated decrease at play. In recent years, the Texas Legislative Budget Board's projections for TDCJ's population have been consistently overstated. From their most recent projection document: So it's not just that the prison population declined this year, it's been trending lower than projected for some time. What's causing this decline? Fewer ar...
Tags: Texas, Law, Gritsforbreakfast, TDCJ, LBB, Texas Legislative Budget Board, Lower Texas


On the link between murder rates and violent crime trends: What happens when there isn't one?

Murder rates are up this year in Texas' big cities and across the country, but other (much more common) types of violent crime remain down. Grits has puzzled over this trend. We usually think of murders as a subset of violent crime - the outliers with worst-case outcomes. Criminologists frequently treat murders as a proxy for other violent crime that may be less well documented. (Rapes or robberies may go unreported, but it's harder to hide dead bodies.) This year, though, those traditional cor...
Tags: New York, Texas, Law, Chicago, New York Times, Philadelphia, Houston, Ny Times, Gritsforbreakfast, Jeff Asher, Ben Horvitz, Houston Chronicle Homicide


Understaffing at Texas prisons reaching dangerous levels: #txlege must close, consolidate units

Whether due to COVID or some other reason(s), vacancies among prison staff at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have reached disturbing levels, according to this report from the agency. Thanks to Keri Blakinger of the Marshall Project for passing it along. Regular Grits readers know TDCJ has chronically short staffed several units in recent years, but the number with serious shortages is higher than any time during the two decades your correspondent has been tracking the agency. In the pa...
Tags: Texas, Law, Texas Legislature, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Gritsforbreakfast, TDCJ, Keri Blakinger, Blakinger, Oklahoma Utah Oregon