An important factor in making
change to our society is through public awareness, but to make the changes
that affect our lives in the most direct way is through the way we govern
ourselves. Criminal Justice is controlled by laws and policies. The way
that laws are created, are through our Legislature. The way we can affect
our legislators is by communicating to them how we feel about certain issues
either by petitions, letters, or going to them and speaking to them in person.
Lobbying is to seek influence on behalf of a certain interest.
To become a registered lobbyist, that is if you want to be paid for that service, a $300 fee is required. As a lobbyist, you cannot take a legislator in your vehicle or furnish him/her transportation anywhere or you face prosecution. You must keep records on any money that you spend on lobbying.
However, if you are an individual who wants to lobby at your own expense and not be reimbursed, there are no fees, nor do you need to keep records on who you lobby. If you spend over $50 or more on a legislator, it is best to contact the Texas Ethics Committee for the exact regulation on keeping records. But, if you spend over $2,000 on entertainment for a legislator you must become a registered lobbyist.
There are four ways to lobby:
1. Working on a campaign. Getting an official in office will help you later when you need to express your concerns over an issue. They will be more attentive to you rather than someone off the street.
2. Working with the staff: A very effective tool both in their district or at the Capitol. Visit with and get to know the staff and inform them of your position and they, in turn, will educate the legislator.
3. Coalition Building. Work with those who support your position and build a coalition of organizations who will endorse your position on specific issues.
4. Visit with your legislator. Feel free to call on your legislator; they will be glad to speak with you. It is best to make an appointment. However, if you happen to be at the Capitol, you can still drop by their office, on short notice. But, it is better to set up an appointment, even if it is that day. The legislator may not be available on short notice and you may only be able to speak to an aide, but don,t be disappointed. An aide will be a valuable asset to send your message to the legislator. The next best thing to knowing the legislator is to know someone that they know and trust.
When lobbying professional dress is appropriate. You may feel more comfortable in blue jeans, but despite your sincerity, you will come across better if you are dressed in business attire.
Six Practical Tips on How to Lobby Your Member of Congress or Elected Official
Common Cause 1989
Establish Your Agenda and Goals
February 1, 1995
Senator John Whitmire, (D)Houston, Chairman of
the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, announced today his plan to help
Texas build on the accomplishments of the "tough but smart" approach
to the problem of crime that began last legislative session.
"In 1993 we sent a message to violent offenders - if they choose to commit their crimes in Texas, they will spend a very long time in a Texas prison," said Whitmire. "We got tough."
"We prioritized our resources by establishing a state jail felony category for non-violent offenders who need to be punished; saving our precious, expensive prison space for rapists, murderers and child molesters. We got smart. "Now it is time to fine-tune the product of our efforts," concluded Whitmire.
Last week, Whitmire introduced legislation (SB 15) to begin the process.
1. HABEAS CORPUS REFORM ACT Sponsors: Sen. John
Montford Rep. Pete Gallego Bill No.: SB 440 HB 3
This Act would eliminate the endless delays in the appellate process of a death penalty case. Firmer time restrictions would be applied to appeals and limitations on the number of appeals would be made. The Court of Criminal Appeals would appoint attorneys to these cases and state funding would be provided for legal fees.
2. REPEAL OF MANDATORY SUPERVISION LAW
Sponsors: Sen. Buster Brown Rep. Peggy Hamric Bill No.: Pending Pending
This Act seeks to eliminate mandatory supervision, regardless of the nature of the crime committed and the Law would, therefore, be retroactive and would eliminate the possibility of any more inmates being released on mandatory supervision.
3. ESTABLISH ENHANCEMENT PROVISIONS IN THE STATE JAIL FELONIES
Sponsors: Sen. Buster Brown Not yet sponsored in House Bill No.: SB 137
JUSTICE FOR ALL seeks enhancement provisions in the State Jail Felony law that will increase the penalties suffered by repeat offenders. The bill makes a second State Jail Felony offense a third degree felony and elevates each subsequent offense to the next higher level.
Note: JUSTICE FOR ALL also supports Senator John Whitmire's SB 15.
4. CREATE A NEW HARMLESS ERROR RULE
Sponsors: Sen. Buster Brown Not yet sponsored in House Bill No.; SB 280
The Harmless Error Rule applied by the Texas Courts is more favorable to convicted criminals than the rule applied in Federal Courts. JUSTICE FOR ALL wants the legislature to institute the same Harmless Error Rule that is utilized in Federal Courts. Doing so will prevent such senseless results as that in the Tracy Gee case where a confessed killer's conviction was overturned simply because the juror cards were shuffled twice.
Similar Bills for the House and Senate are not always identical. Sponsors have similar Bills which JUSTICE FOR ALL supports as those which accomplish our goals.
There is a movement in our government that will allow prison inmates the use of their own telephone system to reach the free world. The claim is that the revenue collected will go to victims of crime. However, it eventually will be devoured by operation expenses and the telephone company. As one high ranking official in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said about abuse of this program, "It,s not a matter if it will occur, but when. The same TDCJ official is concerned that when it occurs, the blame will fall on them, through the public,s eye. To whom do we voice our opinion? The final voice in this matter lies in the hands of the Texas House Appropriations Committee and the Texas Senate Finance Committee. We need to write these offices and express our concern over this issue. If we allow this to happen we have no one to blame but ourselves. So please write to the following addresses:
The Honorable Texas Senate
John Montford, Chairman
P. O. Box 12068, Capitol Station E01.038
Austin, Texas 78711
The Honorable Texas House of Representatives
Robert Junell, Chairman
P. O. Box 2910, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78768
January 27, 1995
To The Members of Justice for All
On Monday, January 23rd, Judge Caprice Cosper of the 339th District Criminal Court sentenced Brian Paul George to a life sentence for the murder of our son, Kenneth Maxey, on September 7, 1990. This life sentence and a life sentence for an aggravated robbery shortly before our son,s murder were STACKED on to another life sentence for a murder committed on July 6, 1990. THREE STACKED life sentences! -- Amen...
There were numerous letters from JUSTICE FOR ALL present at the sentencing for which we are very grateful. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your presence was particularly noticeable and acknowledged by the court after the sentencing. Together, we do make a difference.
This boy's accomplice, Chad Joseph Bailey, is serving a 33/33/15 year concurrent sentence for the same offenses. Needless to say, we are actively working to have the full 33 years served. Ironically, his first review was in December of 1994. Had it not been for JUSTICE FOR ALL, we would not have known to ask for a three year set-off, which was granted. Again, together, we made a difference.
Our gratitude and appreciation and Thanks to everyone.
Shirley and Robert Maxey and daughters, Peggy and Sherry
February 8, 1995 was a landmark day for Justice
For All. This was the FIRST lobby day in Austin. The morning began with
32 of our members boarding a bus for the trek to our Capitol. A car caravan
followed with even more JFA members. Over 50 JFA members represented in
Austin, all wearing our buttons and lobbying for our four point legislative
JFA is well-known and well-respected in Austin. President Pam Lychner was introduced at a rally proclaiming Feb. 8, 1995 crime victims rights day by Governor George Bush. Justice For All was also recognized in a joint Senate and House resolution. It was a proud moment for all of us who have worked so hard to achieve our goals.
But, it's not over yet. -The fight has just begun: Everyone interested in traveling to Austin to testify before committees, or lobby for legislation please contact Sterlene Donahue.
On June 2, 1991 a vicious hate crime resulted in
the tragic death of Tarron Dixon, a young, productive and aspiring African-American
male. Lance Cpl. Dixon had just returned from the Middle East, having also
survived duty in Panama before he was viciously killed by Jory Wayne Thomas,
John Carillo and Donald Worth Riley. On that day, America lost one of her
valiant patriotic citizens and protectors; the African-American community
lost a positive role model; and a family lost a beloved member. On that
infamous day, Dixon's father, Andrew Sr., raced out of his home to find
his son dying on the ground. He held him in his arms as he watched life
Dixon was murdered only blocks from his home simply because of the color of his skin, before he even had a chance to celebrate fully his return to his home and family. Today, the African-American community is gravely plagued by poverty, drugs, unemployment, crime and despair. Should this community also continue to suffer from the murderous persecution by bigoted white supremacists? Absolutely not.
Last week, two of Dixon's killers, Thomas and Carillo, were sentenced to life in prison for this heinous hate crime that will forever taint Houston's image. Riley received the same sentence from a jury in October. While we applaud the sentences and praise the judicial system for seeing to it that the perpetrators were severely punished, we are saddened by the losses our community has suffered by this crime. Perhaps the parents of Thomas, Carillo and Riley are also saddened by a loss - the loss of their dreams of their sons being law-abiding, successful and productive citizens.
During the trial, the judge overseeing the case referred to the murderers as a "disgrace to us all." After hearing the sentence, Tarron Dixon's mother was quoted as saying, "They got life. They are still alive." A reasoned response from a mother forced to grieve over her son who was killed so senselessly. How was it possible for these men to become so consumed with hatred that they could murder someone they did not even know?
Although not widely reported, Donald Worth Riley belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, a White supremacist gang that got its start in West Coast prisons in the 1960's. The group reportedly engages in extortion and drug operations in prisons and provides "protection" to its members. Like Riley, many Aryan Brotherhood members wear an identifying tattoo consisting of a Nazi swastika and SS lightening bolt and they all have an intense hatred of Blacks and Jews. Prospective members are told about society's ills in grossly exaggerated terms and then provided with easy scapegoats. Hateful literature which claims that blacks are genetically inferior and savage-like and which portrays Jews as greedy vermin is used to promote the gang and recruit members.
Acting out of fear, ignorance and insecurity, the offenders lashed out at Dixon, acting upon the hateful message of the Aryan Brotherhood. There is no doubt that the spoken and written word within that group made Mr. Dixon an easy target. This is why the NAACP and the ADL are so concerned about hate literature and the racist blandishments of the Klan and other extremist groups. For, when hatred is allowed to fester, it has the tendency to grow until it explodes into some act of violence - and all too often, that violence is fatal.
Society must continue to view such crimes of hate as a particular menace. A recent study indicated that in contrast to other crimes, hate crimes were twice as likely to cause injury and four times as likely to result in hospitalization. These crimes are also more likely to cause heightened trauma to the victims, increase the risk of intergroup violence, and are more likely to involve multiple offenders. Hate crimes, though violent, are even more sad and destructive in that they exacerbate already strained race relations and further compromise our united strength as a nation.
The ADL and NAACP applaud our judicial system for the stiff sentences handed out in this case; hopefully, they will serve as a warning and a deterrent to others who might similarly act on their racist ideas. However, for defending attorneys Freed and Sharp to plan an appeal of the sentences deals a particularly horrific blow to those most affected by the devastating loss of Tarron Dixon, to his loving parents and friends, as well as to the millions of law abiding Americans who desire a legal system we can respect and depend upon. If these sentences are overturned in appeal, it would send the unfortunate message that somehow this murderous act is excusable and deserving of greater empathetic consideration. To overturn these sentences in appeal would tarnish any hope of justice truly being served and would imply blatant disregard for Tarron's life and the seriousness of this crime.
On December 1, 1994, we were reminded that a life was taken; a life sentence was given; and the resulting losses to us all will last a lifetime. But perhaps, on December 1 we were also reminded to lose some things which we should - any residual tolerance for racism, bigotry, discrimination or hate, whether it be verbal or violent; any tolerance for gangs committed to acts of violence and crime; and any tolerance for aspects of a society which robs its members of the ability and right to exist in an environment of safety, opportunity and hope.
Keryl Burgess Smith is Executive Director of the NAACP Houston Branch
Jonathan Bernstein is Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Southwest Region