February 1996                          Official Publication of JUSTICE FOR ALL                          Volume 4 Issue 2

"Justice will only be achieved when those who are not injured by crime, feel as indignant as those who are."

-King Solomon 635-577 BC

         INMATES, PHONE HOME!!?         
by Dianne Clements

The 74th Texas State Legislature gave the green light to an Inmate Telephone System in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) state managed facilities. Pursuant to House Bill #1 (The General Appropriations Act), the TDCJ budget was reduced by $5 million in the 1996-97 biennium. However, the entire budget amount was appropriated with the stipulation that $5 million must be recouped through installation of an Inmate Telephone System. What this means is that the TDCJ is now in the phone business. At first blush, the idea of TDCJ raising part of their operating budget is not a bad idea for over-burdened taxpayers. However, raising money by allowing inmates their own telephone system is bad policy for this state. The rider instructs phones to be installed only in State Jails and Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facilities. However, the profit projections include all inmate populations and this phone system is destined to include ALL TDCJ FACILITIES.

Under the current system, as a reward for good behavior, inmates may make one outside call every three months. Under the proposed phone system, there will be a phone for every 20 to 80 inmates and prisoners will be allowed to call people on an approved list. (?) According to the information provided the Legislature, advanced telephone technology will allow prison administrators to establish individual levels of access, restrict the number and length of calls, and establish personal identification numbers for inmates. While this may sound well and good, the reality is that the phone system will be abused and misused by inmates. The target of that abuse could be ANYONE with a telephone. The potential for planning illegal activities and harassing victims is real and has been experienced by other states. A few of the reported misuse incidents include drug deals, three-way calls, and threats to relatives or girlfriends. In one state, inmates have called random numbers out of the phone book just to talk to someone. Other problems: damage to phones, fights over their use and the expense of collect calls to families who can't afford to pay for them. New Mexico reported that inmates had used telephones to plan a July 1987 escape.

With these problems in mind, the Texas Legislature conceded to the Inmate Phone System. Why? The package was wrapped nicely with a pretty red bow and it sounded so good. Consider the presentation of the proposal. "Dear Texas State Legislator, every state, but Texas, provides telephone services for inmates, and these services INCREASE state and local revenue through commissions, provide benefits to inmates and their families, improve prisoner behavior and assist with rehabilitation." Now consider the consequences. Does it make any difference that every state except Texas has a phone system? No, it does not!!! Texas should be proud of this fact and should not allow that type of reasoning to be used in promoting the Inmate Telephone System. As Chairman Polunsky so appropriately stated when he addressed the JFA membership, "TDCJ is in the prison business, not the money-raising business."

On March 15, 1996, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice will meet in Houston at the Stouffer's Renaissance Hotel.  Justice For All has requested that the Inmate Phone System be included on their agenda.  Please make every effort to attend so that our opposition to this folly can be heard.

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New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton on the problem of police perjury, or "testi-lying," at a Nov. 14 symposium of the Harvard Law School Criminal Justice Institute:

Fighting crime and making arrests have always required both physical and mental agility. After an arrest, the officer has to clear the hurdles of the criminal justice system. That's how it was 25 years ago when I was a young cop patrolling the streets of Boston not far from this building.

But since then, the hurdles have become high jumps. Cops now live in a new world of court decisions and public expectations where, sometimes, it appears that the system expects them to be able to fly over the high jumps. Everyday, while the public's expectations of police service grow, someone is raising the bar that cops have to clear. In New York state, our Court of Appeals has consistently interpreted the state constitution to create constraints on searches that are much more restrictive than those imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. They have done this despite the fact that the language of the state constitution is virtually identical to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The goal of the criminal trial system is to seek truth and justice. But in actual practice, the goals of both the defense and the prosecution are to win. In the competition over who wins and who loses, the truth is often left without a guardian.

"Testi-lying" is different from any other form of police corruption because it is usually unrelated to any opportunity for personal gain. Most police officers are evaluated on arrests, not convictions, so the outcome of their cases doesn't affect their careers. Cops who steal, take bribes or beat people to further their corrupt acts have lost all connection to the police department and the values and ideals of the criminal justice system. (but) Cops who lie in court to convict people they believe are guilty, often have not. Many cops who "testi-lie" do so in the belief that they are helping to enforce the law. In fact, these cops see "testi-lying" as a perfectly reasonable response to unreasonable and unrealistic evidentiary rules and court decisions that make it difficult, if not impossible to enforce the law in the real world.

As cops who "testi-lie" see it, they don't lie to convict innocent people, but to convict guilty people. But in doing so, they have lost sight of the fact that the end does not and cannot, under the law, justify the means. You cannot break the law to enforce the law.

by George J. Klages

I was lucky enough to be the JFA representative to attend the Attorney General's Crime Victims Briefing on January 9, 1996. Again, our hard-fought battle to have victims participate in the Criminal Justice System process is under assault; now by the Capelle decision. The Attorney General is appealing the decision but he needs your help. You need to write the Attorney General regarding your viewpoint of a victim's right to write the Parole Board. If the Attorney General is not successful, the prisoner will be able to see the letter you wrote so the prisoner can "refute" any inaccuracies or discrepancies in your letter regarding the parole hearing.

Your letter should cover the following points:
Write to:                  Attorney General Dan Morales 
                               PO Box 12548
                               Austin, TX   78711-2548

This issue is dedicated to the Memory of HANS TICSHKE, son of Cherylle Spiller.

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