by State Representative John Culberson
Justice For All has labored harder at the oars of criminal justice reform than any other grassroots organization I know. You have all been especially diligent in working to terminate federal control over the Texas prison system, which will restore accountability and common-sense efficiency to state prison policies. This has been the focus of my work on criminal justice in the Texas House since 1990, and I am profoundly grateful for your letters and phone calls of support.
We almost achieved our goal in 1992, except at the last minute, Attorney General Dan Morales gave away Texas' golden opportunity by signing a secretive, out-of-court settlement agreement with the inmates' attorneys. Ever since that bitter day, JFA and I and State Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Congressman Bill Archer have worked ceaselessly to undo this damaging settlement and accomplish our goal. That day is now almost upon us, and you can help us tremendously on our final lap.
Please make a special effort to attend the March membership meeting to hear our plan of action firsthand. At the time this newsletter is going to press, we are not yet able to describe our plan publicly, but I can tell you we will act before the month of May has ended. Nationally recognized legal experts tell us that our plan has a very high likelihood of success, and Morales is not happy about any of it. In fact, we expect him to follow through on his consistent threats to fight, in court, any effort by any other official who tries to terminate his settlement agreement. We will need the strong, visible support of JFA.
Thank you again for your extraordinary help last session, especially when you handed out fliers at the parade to help generate letters and phone calls in support of HCR 76, my legislation with Senator Brown to authorize the Legislature to hire an independent, outside counsel to terminate Ruiz. With your help, we finally won by a two-thirds margin in the Texas House, but Morales had slowed us down. The Attorney General went into high gear, and after a lot of personal phone calls to State Senators, at 2:23 am on the last day of the session, May 29, 1995, HCR 75 was defeated in the Texas Senate by the Democratic majority on a straight party vote, except for Senator John Whitmire, who joined Senator Brown and the Republican minority in voting to terminate Ruiz.
We then immediately shifted our attention to Washington, D.C., and with the help of the new conservative majority that now controls the U.S. Congress, Senator Hutchison and Chairman Archer have made tremendous progress in paving a clear path for Texas to achieve the goal we set in 1990. They are on the brink of enacting the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which was first filed in the U.S. House by Chairman Archer, and in the U.S. Senate by Senator Hutchison, as the Stop Turning Out Prisoners Act or S.T.O.P. Perhaps because of the November election, President Bill Clinton has said he will sign the bill, so it must pass soon.
When this bill becomes law, we will be able to move mountains in federal court to reach our long-sought goal. When you attend the membership meeting in March, you will learn how we will do it, and how you can help make it happen. Most exciting of all, you will learn how, in the process of terminating Ruiz, Texas might be able to restore true state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment for all 50 states to protect the lives and property of their citizens free of virtually any federal interference, as America's Founding Fathers originally intended.
Local producer, Rod Mitchell is working in conjunction with the ABC television series Prime Time. He is looking for individuals or families who have been victimized by individuals who were on pre-trial release. Mr. Mitchell is asking for those individuals to contact him at (713) 522-7257.
There is only one best protection for crime victims. It is a very simple concept and it is up to every member of Justice For All to implement it. "Prevent the crime from happening!" Of course we can't prevent all crimes but we can prevent the criminal attacks of violent prisoners who get out of prison to murder, batter and rape again.
In the last Texas legislative session, Justice For All lobbied for four key pieces of legislation. Three were enacted. (although some were watered down from what we wanted.) That was our first time at lobbying and yet we were a powerful force. Starting in 1995, all appeals have been drastically reduced. No longer can lawyers file seemingly endless appeals to keep prisoners on death row for 15 to 20 years.
What can you do?
We need volunteers. Thank you for electing me to the office of Vice-President of Legislative Affairs. Let's do our best to make our 2nd lobbying year one that makes a difference. If you can spend one hour a month, you will make a difference.
Please contact George at the JFA office to offer your help with letter writing, calling your reps/senators, lobbying trips to Austin, tracking legislation or serving on legislative action groups.
"The Council on Crime in America was established in November, 1995 to examine violent crime, crime prevention and law enforcement. It seeks to provide rigorous, factual information on the scope of violent crime to individuals, citizen-based groups, and officials who wish to develop effective, community-based anti-crime strategies. The bi-partisan Council is comprised of leading experts on fighting crime at the federal, state and local levels." Here are a few highlights of their findings:
This is just a sample of information available in this 58 page report. You can obtain a copy for yourself by faxing Lara Stead @ 202-822-8328 and requesting "The State of Violent Crime in America" by the Council on Crime in America. We will be printing data from this report in future newsletters.
Even as a little girl, I loved the rodeo. We went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo every year and made the trip to Huntsville for the Prison Rodeo more than once. There's just something about the way it feels. My son felt it, too.
Tex made the pilgrimage out to Simonton to watch the rodeo there frequently. It doesn't take much for me to imagine that big, handsome kid in his cowboy duds heading out the front door. This huge belt buckle with "Texas" on the front, lace-up ropers and Wranglers were his "uniform" when he went rodeo-ing.
I occasionally would allow the kids to drag me along. As long as the rodeo was going on, it was okay. When the dance started, though, I would feel a little out of place in that big barn with the 'young folks', two-stepping it around the dance floor. I could always spot Tex, though, above the heads of the others, laughing and whirling Amy around the dance floor. Every once in a while, Texas and I would have a go around the sawdust. He died in the parking lot of that rodeo.
I read in the paper about the 17 year old girl in Pasadena, Terri Idom and her mother, Rebecca Jeanes, who were stabbed to death in their Pasadena home on Valentine's day. Terri was planning on showing her lamb at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. She spent hours walking the animal up and down the road, but of course some #*#%*~ took all of Terri's plans away from her.
Some of Terri's classmates petitioned Livestock show officials to let a friend show Terri's lamb for her. Graciously, the officials agreed and 17 year old Sahyla Ivey led the lamb around the ring. The lamb didn't make it past the first cut; no one will ever know if the lamb would have done better with Terri showing it.