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
by Dianne Clements
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.
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:
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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
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.
PROTECT YOUR CRIME VICTIM RIGHTS
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.
by George J. Klages
Your letter should cover the following points:
Write to: Attorney
General Dan Morales
- Are you opposed to the prisoner seeing your
- Do you believe you should have the right to
be considered in whether a prisoner should be paroled?
- If the final decision is in favor of the prisoner,
are your rights being reduced or infringed upon?
- Are you concerned about or do you fear reprisal
by the prisoner?
- Optionally, include a short history of your
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