Born in 1987. Raised in small towns in Texas. Organized students for Obama in 2008. Graduated from UT with degrees in government and philosophy. Joined Burnt Orange Report in 2012. Managing Sarah Eckhardt's Campaign for County Judge.
The State of Texas has decided to provide 'climate-controlled' barns for pigs in its agricultural prison program as many prison guards swelter and some inmates die from extreme temperatures in unairconditioned Texas prisons.
The criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast reported last week that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has contracted with Art's Way Scientific, an Iowa-based company, to build six "modular swine buildings" for $750,000. These buildings "are completely climate controlled" according to a statement from the company's President. Art's Way Scientific's website states that its modules are the ideal environment for swine, because "...excess heat or cold will cause stress and can impact health."
While median household incomes in Texas stagnated from 2000 to 2012, tuition and fees at Texas' 38 Public Colleges and Universities have grown by more than 86% over the same period. Students beginning their college careers in Texas next year will pay more for college and take on more student loan debt than every generation of Texans before them.
According to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, students paid an enrollment-weighted average of $8,073 in tuition and fees to attend public institutions of higher education in 2012, compared with 4,329 in 2000. Weighting averages by enrollment gives a more accurate picture of what the average student pays in Texas, because it means that institutions with larger full-time enrollments are weighted more heavily than those with smaller enrollments.
Saying that it is past time to correct, "persistent needs and unwarranted disparities" in our Justice System, United States Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday called on the United States Congress to end "untenable and irresponsible" budget cuts and outlined reforms that his Department of Justice would implement to save money and reduce jail overcrowding.
"It's clear - as we come together today - that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason," Holder told members of the American Bar Association meeting in San Francisco. "It's clear, at a basic level, that 20th-century criminal justice solutions are not adequate to overcome our 21st-century challenges. And it is well past time to implement common sense changes that will foster safer communities from coast to coast."
Invoking defendants' right to a trial by jury, Holder called on Congress to, "expand existing indigent defense programs, provide access to counsel for more juvenile defendants, and increase funding for federal public defender offices"
Houston Democratic Senator John Whitmire was in the national spotlight last Tuesday doing something Democratic Lawmakers in Texas don't get to do very often. He was bragging about work done in the Texas Legislature.
In a room packed with more than 150 juvenile justice leaders and congressional staff at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C., Senator Whitmire spoke about the innovative programs Texas has adopted to reduce recidivism and keep children in their communities and schools. Whitmire was selected by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, as one of four panelists to speak about improving outcomes for youth involved in the justice system.
In his presentation (which you can watch below the jump) Senator Whitmire, who is the head of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, confessed that challenges in the adult criminal justice system had absorbed most of the attention of Texas Lawmakers until discovery of sexual abuse at a youth lockup six years ago elevated the relatively small juvenile justice system to a top-of-the agenda priority. "The bottom line is that we were overwhelmed with an adult problem," explained Whitmire "Since that scandal which brought it to our attention, we have spent around the clock trying to reform the system."
The map of poverty in Texas is Changing. Suburbs, areas next to big cities long associated with wide lawns and middle-class status, are now home to a majority of the poor, according to a new Brookings Institution book.
According to Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, the authors ofConfronting Suburban Poverty in America, Houston and McAllen were the only major metropolitan areas in Texas where the share of poor in the suburbs were greater than that in cities.
The trend in most major metropolitan areas in Texas, however, has been towards greater concentrations of suburban poverty. In the El Paso, McAllen, and Dallas areas, for example, the share of suburban poor has grown by double digits in the past decade. San Antonio's share of suburban poor stayed about the same, at 25.2%, and Austin's decreased by 8.2%.
When it comes to climbing the income ladder, where you grow up may matter a lot.
In San Francisco and Seattle, a child raised in the bottom 20 percent of income earners has better than a 1 in 10 chance of ending up in the top 20 percent of income earners as an adult. In Memphis, Tennessee, by contrast, only one fortunate child out of every 38 becomes a top-earner as an adult.
You are significantly more likely to remain poor if you are raised poor in the Southeast or the industrial Midwest than if you are raised poor in another area of the United States.
Why the geographic difference in income mobility? Find out below the fold.
My favorite piece of writing on the Trayvon Martin case is one that Edward Garris referred Burnt Orange Report readers to last week in his post on Texas' "stand your ground" law. It's an eloquent piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic, and it's titled, Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice.
If you haven't read it yet, you should. Coates' main point is that tragedies like Trayvon Martin's killing are an understandable (and perhaps even natural) result of hundreds of years of policies aimed at otherizing, disenfranchising, disadvantaging, and criminalizing African Americans.
The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury's performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.
When I watched hundreds of Texas women offer inspiring, intensely personal testimony about how Republicans' ghoulish anti-choice, anti-women-and-couple abortion regulations would impact their lives at the Texas Capitol earlier this month, I couldn't help but feel a little sad. The diverse collection of stories of those who took a Stand with Texas Women were stories that every Texan should hear, because they reveal unforeseen problems with the bad abortion legislation and shone light on existing cracks in Texas' system for women's health and reproductive justice.
Personal stories engage us at an emotional level and connect us to a shared experience, and it was disappointing that the inspiring stories of hundreds of Texas women would be lost forever to the ugly, pixillated, always-buffering, nearly-unwatchable video archive of committee hearings maintained by the State of Texas.
Thankfully, someone thought ahead. Watch Paula talk about her heart-rending experience with date rape and the difficulties that come from having a non-viable pregnancy. More testimonials are embedded below the fold and at this link.
Last week, Senator José Rodríguez cast the single vote in the Texas Senate against S.B. 2, a bill that provides for the possibility of parole after 40 years served for capital murder convictions of 17-year-olds, because he believes it is unconstitutional.
If you read my post last week, you'll remember that the June 2012 Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama held that a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for those under 18 is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court's decision had left Texas without legal penalties on the books for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder, so Governor Perry added juvenile justice sentencing reform to the special session agenda.
The Supreme Court also held that that factors such as age, family and home environment, likelihood of rehabilitation, and the circumstances of the homicide offense ought to be considered when by judges and juries during sentencing, though. For these reasons, I noted in my previous post, some thought that S.B. 2 didn't address the constitutional issues raised by the Supreme Court.
Texas may wade into a long and costly constitutional battle if it passes Senator Joan Huffman's Senate Bill 2, a bill intended to reform sentencing of 17-year-old capital murderers to comply with a Supreme Court ruling from last year.
Currently, the fate of 17-year-old killers convicted of capital murder in Texas is uncertain. Before 2005, 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder had two sentencing options available to them: death or mandatory life in prison without parole. But in two important cases, in 2005 and 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court held both of those punishments unconstitutional for people under 18 years of age.
The bill reported out by the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice may not actually solve the issues raised by the Supreme Court, though, and some argue that it may be best for lawmakers to do nothing at all.