MANDATORY RELEASE AND PAROLE
IN THE STATE OF TEXAS
By State Senator Jerry Patterson
Last month, after yet another case of a felon being set free under the mandatory release program, I announced legislation which will end the program forever. Thanks to the efforts of Justice For All, the case of Larry Don McQuay, a child molester from San Antonio who has admitted to sexually abusing more than 200 children and who has promised to molest more when released, has raised public awareness of the early release system and underscored the need to abolish it.
The mandatory release program, also referred to as 'mandatory supervision' was first enacted in 1977. Under this formula, criminals are automatically released from prison on their 'minimum expiration date' when calendar time served and accrued 'good time credits' add up to the time of the criminal's original sentence. Even if the inmate has previously been denied release by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, he must be released on his minimum expiration date. The Texas Legislature has amended the mandatory supervision statute in recent sessions to allow the Parole Board to block some mandatory releases, but only for offenses committed after September 1, 1996. My proposal would apply to all criminals, regardless of the date on which they committed their offense. Another prominent mandatory release case was that of Kenneth McDuff, who committed at least one murder after he had been released without Parole Board review due to the mandatory release formula.
In the next session of the Texas Legislature, I will introduce legislation to change mandatory release to mandatory review. The Parole Board will review theses inmates' cases when they reach their 'minimum expiration date', giving the Board the power to keep these criminals behind bars. All inmates currently serving time in Texas prisons, regardless of the date they were sentenced, will not be released without review by the Parole Board.
The mandatory release program is a threat to our safety. It gives an antiquated, criminal oriented formula control of our prisons, with no consideration of the safety or well being of our communities. It is time to take the keys to the cell away from the criminals and their formula, and put the keys back in the hands of the people.
Mandatory release is not the only aspect of our criminal justice system which needs to be changed. Major problems exist in our parole system as well. In 1994, 25,358 inmates were released from prison before serving their complete sentence. Of this number, 73% were paroled based upon a review by the parole board of their personal history and their case history, and 27% were released under the mandatory release program.
As of January 1996, there were 76,000 parolees in Texas. Of these 16,000 are so called 3g offenders, meaning they committed homicide, kidnapping, sexual offenses, assault, injury to a child, arson, or robbery. There are 16,000 prisoners on mandatory supervision, meaning they were released via the good time plus time served formula. These offenders were never reviewed by the Parole Board. Of these, 6,500 are 3g offenders.
After inmates are released on parole or mandatory release, they are assigned to a parole officer, who monitors the inmate to make sure he is following the conditions of his parole. These conditions could include such things as job training, substance abuse counseling, community service, living in an assigned residence or halfway house, or any other condition set by the Parole Board. Every day a parolee violates the conditions of his parole. Sometimes the infraction is a minor one, like failing to report for a visit with the parole officer. Some violations are much more serious, including the commission of other crimes. There are over 13,000 parolees on our streets with warrants out for their arrest. Almost 2,000 of these are considered 'armed and dangerous' by the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, the only law enforcement division responsible for the apprehension of these fugitives consists of four DPS officers. This division has an annual budget of only $90,000. That means that each of these officers is responsible for rounding up over 3,300 fugitives, with a budget of $6.80 per criminal.
No steps are taken to apprehend these criminals, except the efforts of this grossly under-funded division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. In fact, when parole violators are arrested for new offenses, it is almost impossible to determine if a 'blue warrant' (a warrant for parole violation) has been issued for the prisoner. The parole division of TDCJ is contacted by phone, and the arrested person's file must be pulled by hand due to a lack of modern technology to keep up with the information. This process can take several days. But municipal and county jails will release the parole violator after only 72 hours spent in their facility, because after this time the State will not reimburse them for the cost of housing a prisoner. Often, the Parole Division has not been able to respond to the local jail's request for information on the prisoner within the 72 hour window, and the parole violator, who was a fugitive from justice before this arrest, is set free. These are just a few of the problems found within the current parole system. On May 16, at the Justice For All meeting in Houston, I will explore these problems in depth and discuss my plans to solve them. I look forward to seeing you there.
THIS AIN'T NO SPANKY AND "OUR GANG"
An Editorial by Sterlene Donahue
The other night, Channel 11, KHOU, did a story on the zero-tolerance policy of HPD and Houston gang members and the problems it creates for good kids. Dan Lauck, the reporter for 11, stated that there has been a "tremendous rush here to identify kids as gang members; in fact the city of Houston has a list of 10,000 names. And it does seem, sometimes, as if every kid in baggy pants is a target for the police." Charles Rotrammel, Director/Youth Advocates told Lauck, "There's an adrenaline rush about being at a gang party and wondering if the cops are going to bust it and wondering if someone is going to come in with a gun. There's a level of excitement there that they can't find anywhere else." As the director of Youth Advocates, Lauck says that Rotrammel claims that he and the police should be on the same side, but instead, the unforgiving policy of zero tolerance makes getting kids out of the gangs even harder. "That creates a siege mentality in these neighborhoods", stated Rotrammel. He (Rotrammel) believes that at the core of every gang is a small number of violent members who make it look bad on the others who are not violent. 'Scuse me... if the baggy-panted kids are at the party for a 'rush' because they know there's the potential for violence, then they are there for the violence, whether they are violent or not. Shoot-outs are not sanctioned spectator events; they are a danger to those involved and to any innocent bystander that could be in the line of fire. Duh. One of the kids interviewed said that the baggy pants (and their music) were a statement of this generation; it defines their generation. With prompting from Dan Lauck the same kid defined US as minorities - not just gang members. I personally see white, Asian, black, and Hispanic kids wearing baggy pants. And I, for one, feel that it doesn't matter if you're showing crack or selling it, they're both disgusting and one is definitely illegal. It all boils down to CHOICES. These kids decide what to wear, where to go, and who they hang around with. And most times, Mommy and Daddy know how 'junior' dresses because they buy his or her clothes and occasionally see them around the house. Try to imagine, as disgusting as this may seem, me in a leather mini-skirt, halter top, Tammy Faye eye make-up, wearing boots and standing on a street corner at night. O.K., since we're imagining, imagine me a size 7. Would the police think I was just an average citizen? Would they be confused and wonder if I might be a doctor, a lawyer, or an Indian chief? I sincerely doubt it. The point is, I might conceivably be mistaken for a prostitute. The police might even stop and question me. Harassment? No. Doing their job? Yes. I think Houston Police Chief Sam Nuchia states it very well, "If they want to look like gang members, we're going to assume that they could be. They certainly will be stopped and checked out. That's the message. We intend that to be the message." I'm partial to, if it looks like a duck, dresses like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably the member of a flock.
Monday, June 3, Trial in Brazoria Court in Angleton, TX at 9:00 AM in the Honorable Judge Gayle's court for Charles Hughes in the assault on STEPHANIE PALMER by shooting her in the face with a shotgun while she was comforting her terrified son. Hughes faces a charge of Aggravated Robbery as well as five other charges to be stacked, if convicted. Charles Hughes was also convicted of the Bennigan Murder, where he will be serving a Life sentence with a 35 year mandatory.
Monday, July 8, Capital Murder trial to be held in the Honorable Judge Caprice Cosper's 339th Criminal District Court on 1302 Preston for Dedrick Gaineus in the MICHAEL BURZINSKI murder in July, 1994. Sentencing to be held (July date unknown) in the Honorable Judge Caprice Cosper's 339th Criminal District Court on 1302 Preston for Terence Terrel, who participated in the murder. This is a sentencing for the plea bargain from capital murder to aggravated robbery. Following disposition of these cases, Chris Lewis, will be tried in the same court (as of this date) for Capital Murder for the same crime. Please support this family by attending court during this stressful month for the Burzinski family.
From the President
JUSTICE FOR ALL has had an incredible April! Once again it has been a whirlwind - so much has happened it is difficult to know where to begin. For starters, JFA participated in 114 media interviews relating the voluntary castration of Larry Don McQuay. JFA was so busy that on one morning all 3 major network morning shows had representatives of JFA speaking about our organization and our efforts to raise funds for Mr. McQuay's procedure. JFA was represented on CNN, Rivera Live, Dateline, Inside Edition, and the Phil Donahue Show, to name a few. There have been interviews with at least 75 radio stations across the country. The Washington Times, USA Today, The New York Times, and many other major newspapers published stories about Larry Don McQuay and JFA. JFA is especially proud of and grateful to our local Houston media which has been very effective in relaying the message from JFA about Larry Don McQuay. KLOL radio station hosted an on the air rally downtown calling for the repeal of the mandatory release law. JFA was invited to attend and help spread the word. Governor Bush's phone number was given out over the air and the Governor's office received 2,400 calls that day. GOOD WORK HOUSTON! The most valuable reward of all the media attention is the JFA has been recognized across the country. Because of the publicity, at least 15 people have expressed a desire to begin new JFA chapters in 15 different cities across the country. We are truly growing into a national organization. "Justice will only be achieved when those who are not injured by crime are as indignant as those who are." King Solomon has set the stage for our JFA members. Bringing attention to the plight of crime victims was the number one priority on the JFA agenda for National Crime Victims' Rights Week.
A very special thanks to Ardis Anderson, Jeanne Bayley, and Woody Clements. These volunteers organized a BEAUTIFUL candlelight ceremony on Sunday, April 21, 1996. JFA has a huge "Scale of Justice" that our member Charles Nawrocki made. This very visual ceremony paid tribute to victims of crime by lighting candles in their memory, and then the justice scale was balanced by placing legislative ideas on the side of victims. Legislation, a true path to justice.
Monday April 22, everyone was asked to drive with their headlights on. Governor Bush acknowledged crime victims' rights week and made a public request for Texans to drive with their headlights on. Finally, on Wednesday, April 24, JFA members rallied outside the criminal court building to call attention to the problems within the court system. There were signs which decried the injustice of: repeated delays; victims removed from the court room (the rule); mandatory release law; stacked sentences vs. concurrent sentences; dual supervision (convicted individuals who are on probation and parole simultaneously); and inadequate notification of sex offenders in our neighborhoods. We know the problems and we have the solutions. Listen up legislature! Many of the solutions to these problems can be achieved in the 1997 legislative session. These changes are possible with the work and support of our committed membership. This legislative agenda is attainable. Call your State Representative and State Senator right now, talk to them about the JFA agenda and ask for their support. Your representatives want to hear from you. Elected officials rely on their constituents to communicate their concerns and their ideas to them.
Other good things for JFA this month included a visit from Mr. John Sharp, Texas State Comptroller. Mr. Sharp wanted JFA members to know that his original proposal for the inmate phone system was an effort to raise money for crime victims, not coddle criminals. From his perspective, it was a good thing for victims. However, Mr. Sharp understands and respects the fact that JFA opposes the phone system under any circumstances. Ft. Worth Chapter had a very successful rally that Sterlene Donahue and I attended. They were very organized and had wonderful speakers. EXCELLENT JOB BY DFW CHAPTER! THANK YOU FOR THE INVITATION! JFA received a proclamation from Mayor Bob Lanier's office recognizing our efforts during crime victims rights week. The proclamation was read by Councilman and JFA member Orlando Sanchez, and presented by our own Andy Kahan. Our past president Pam Lychner received a proclamation also, recognizing her work and commitment to victims and criminal justice reform. Congratulations Pam!
I could go on, but this is all the space I have. Take care.
Letter from the President:
It's been a very busy two months since we started the D/FW chapter of Justice For All. Our first rally was April 17 and, for those of you who missed it, it was terrific! Our speakers: Ric Nesbit, Father of Katy Nesbit (murdered in 1995 along with her boyfriend, Michael McEachern over a car stereo); John Sutton, Criminal Justice Advisor for Governor Bush; Megan Mendenhall, Supervisor, CODIS Section Texas Department of Public Safety; Toby Goodman, Texas State Representative; Chief David Knuckle, Arlington Police Chief; Betty Marshall, Assistant Criminal District Attorney for Tarrant County; Lisa Hunsaker, Field representative for Congressman Martin Frost; Dianne Clements, Justice For All President - Houston Chapter.
We would like to thank all of the speakers for coming and teaching us about the wonderful changes that are taking place in the criminal justice system. Even the speakers learned at this one! I, personally, would like to thank all the members who worked so diligently to make this rally happen.
We are all looking forward to a great future with Justice For All.
Lydia Brown D/FW chapter President
What's up in D/FW?
Our immediate charges are:
· We are working with the Arlington police department to determine the problems with listing sex offender information in the newspapers. It's important and needs to be done!
· We are closely monitoring several criminal cases to ensure that justice is served.
· We are researching the judges to determine our endorsements for the upcoming election.
If you have any free time to devote to Justice For All, we sure could use some help from you. Believe me, even a small amount of time will help us out tremendously! We need help with mailers, courtroom monitoring, manning the phones, working booths, and so on, and so on . . . . Give us a call at (817)649-5323.
The May member meeting will be held Thursday, May 16, at Arlington Youth Services at 2820 Matlock road. Take 1-20 to Matlock road and go north. We're across the street from Vandergriff Park. This month's speaker is Betty Marshall, Assistant Criminal District Attorney for Tarrant County and a Justice For All member. See you there!
Those of you who have not heard from us yet, give us a call at (817) 649-5323 and let us know you are with us.
JUSTICE FOR ALL WILL BE PRESENTING A SIX-PART SERIES DEVOTED TO THE ISSUES OF THE DEATH PENALTY AND IT'S IMPACT
DEATH PENALTY AND SENTENCING INFORMATION In the United States 3/96
1. Imposition of the death penalty in the United States is extraordinarily rare. Since 1966, there has been 1 execution for every 1900 murders, or 0.053%. There have been approximately 570,000 murders and 300 executions from 1966-1995. (Justice Department and FBI's Uniform Crime Report)
2. 0.3% of those sentenced to death are executed every year (Average from January 1977 through 1995). Approximately 5000 persons have been sentenced to death, 300 have been executed (JUSTICE FOR ALL, 1995). 56 murderers were executed in 1993, a record number for the modern death penalty. This represents 1.8% of those on death row.
3. Death penalty opponents state that "Those who support the death penalty see it as a solution to violent crime." That assertion is ridiculous and a complete fabrication. Executions are seen as the appropriate punishment for certain criminals committing specific crimes. So says the Supreme Court and so say most death penalty supporters.
4. Most death penalty opponents say that execution is the same as murder because both involve taking human life. Is making love the same as rape because both involve sexual intercourse? Are self-defense and capital murder the same because both may involve taking human life? Is the legal taking of property to satisfy a debt the same as auto theft? Are kidnapping and legal incarceration the same because both involve imprisonment against one's will? Please.
PART I. THE RISK OF EXECUTING THE INNOCENT
The greatest fear, by those who support or oppose the death penalty, is that an innocent person will be executed. The most significant study ever conducted to evaluate the historical evidence of that threat is the Bedau-Radelet Study, (40, 1 Stanford Law Review, Nov. 1987, pg. 21-179). The study concluded that 23 innocent persons had been executed since 1900. The methodology of the study was so flawed, however, that at least 12 of those cases had no evidence of innocence and substantial evidence of guilt Both authors, noted anti-death penalty advocates, "consistently presented incomplete and misleading accounts of evidence." (Markman & Cassell, 41, 1 Stanford Law Review, Nov. 1988). The remaining 11 cases represent 0.15% of the 7,200 executions which have taken place since 1900. In addition, the "innocents" executed group was extracted from a Bedau and Radelet imagined pool of 350 persons who were, supposedly, wrongly convicted of capital or "potentially" capital crimes.
Not only were Bedau and Radelet at least 50% in error with their 23 "innocents" claim, 211, or 60% of those 350, cases were not sentenced to death. The juries had already, decidedly, put these crimes in the "no capital punishment" category. Furthermore, any claims of innocence, regarding the remaining 139 of those 350 cases, or regarding the remaining 11 executed, should be suspect, given this study's poor level of accuracy. Calling Bedau and Radelet's work misleading hardly does this "academic" study justice. Had any high school student presented such a report, where at least 50% and 60% of the data was incorrect or misleading, a grade of "F" would be a likely result. An additional, significant oversight in the study is not differentiating between the risk of executing innocent persons before and after Furman vs. Georgia (1972). There is no credible evidence to suggest that any innocent persons have been executed since 1960. Even if the death penalty has been 99.85% accurate since 1900, and 100% since 1960, the execution of only one innocent person represents a terrible tragedy. Placed in the context that hundreds of thousands of innocents have been murdered or seriously injured, since 1900, by criminals improperly released by the U.S. criminal justice system, the question society must answer is, "Is the risk of executing the innocent, however slight, worth the benefits of the death penalty--those being incarceration, deterrence, just punishment and the saving of innocent lives?"
Finally, Bedau and Radelet admit that neither they nor any previous researchers have proved any executed defendant was innocent. "We agree with our critics that we have not proved these executed defendants to be innocent; we never claimed that we had." (41, 1 Stanford Law Review, Nov. 1988). Since 1966, extraordinary efforts have been made in the pretrial, trial and appeals processes, to minimize the chance of an innocent being convicted, sentenced to death and executed. To punish with death, a 12 person jury must unanimously find against a defendant in 60 out of 60 considerations. To avoid death, it takes only 1 individual jury member to find for the defendant in 1 out of those 60 consideration. The prosecution must prevail in 100% of those 60 considerations, tile defense in but 1, or 1.67%. If sentenced to death, the subsequent appeals process can extend through 22 years, 60 appeals and more than 200 individual judicial and executive reviews of the defendants claims. The appeals process is so extensive, that the average time between conviction and execution is 8 years in the U.S., 8.7 years in Texas and 10.8 years in Rims County, Houston, as the case goes through both state and federal appeals systems. For the 31 executed in 1994, the average time on death row was over 10 years. Sec F, Death Penalty Procedures, to review the exhaustive protections given to the accused and to the inmate. Indeed, since 1973, the due process protections in capital cases have been so extraordinary that nearly 35% of all death row cases, or 1851, have been overturned for due process reasons. Of the 5380 death row cases since 1973, possibly as many as 20 cases (less than 0.4%) were overturned based on any credible claims of innocence.
NEXT MONTH: PART II ÷ INCAPACITATION AND DETERRENT EFFECT
U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ISSUES CALL TO
ACTION ON YOUTH VIOLENCE
Attorney General Janet Reno has issued an urgent call to action on behalf of America's children and released an action plan to help communities reduce crime by and against juveniles. "Combating Violence and Delinquency: The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan" is a comprehensive strategy and information guide for focusing Federal, state and local resources to reduce youth violence and prevent delinquency. In announcing the Action Plan, the Attorney General cited statistics showing that between 1984 and 1994, the number of juvenile murderers led, while the number of juvenile murder victims increased by 82 percent. "More and more of our nation's children are killing and dying, " said Reno. "The only way we can break the cycle of violence is through a truly national effort implemented one community at a time. Everyone has a role -- businesses, schools, universities, and especially parents. Every community and every citizen can find practical steps in the Action Plan to do something now about youth violence." The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan outlines eight objectives that Americans must engage in to reduce youth violence:
1. Provide immediate intervention and appropriate sanctions and treatment for delinquent juveniles; 2. Prosecute certain serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders in criminal court; 3. Reduce youth involvement with guns, drugs and gangs; 4. Provide opportunities to children and youth; 5. Break the cycle of violence by addressing youth victimization, abuse and neglect; 6. Strengthen and mobilize communities; 7. Support the development of innovative approaches to research and evaluation; 8. Implement an aggressive campaign to spread information on effective strategies to combat juvenile violence.
Over the next year, the Attorney General will be calling upon communities, institutions and individuals to implement the Action Plan. Along with other federal agencies, the Justice Department will be highlighting local successes and committing resources, such as training and technical assistance, to support local programming highlighted in the Action Plan. The Action Plan was developed by the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which includes the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, juvenile justice professionals from state and local government, as well as private juvenile justice practitioners. The Attorney General serves as Chair, and Shay Bilchik, Administrator of the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), serves as Vice-Chair. "One of the strengths of the Action Plan is that it does not merely set goals, but also offers the information that communities need," said Bilchik. "For each objective, the Action Plan provides background information; an in-depth review of effective strategies and promising programs from across the nation; a description of initiatives from different federal agencies to assist states and local communities; and suggestions from state and local action." Bilchik added, "The Action Plan format allows users to focus on any specific objective appropriate to their community." Copies of "Combating Violence and Delinquency: The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan," or the "Action Plan Summary" are available from OJJDP's Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20850. The toll-free number is 1-800-638-8736. More information about the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Juvenile Justice Action Plan is available on the Internet. The Office Of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's World Wide Web home page links to copies of the press release, summary and full reports. Both reports are available as standard ASCII text or Adobe Acrobat files. The address for OJJDP's home page http://www.ncjrs.org/ojjhome.htm The Action Plan and its summary are also posted in both formats on the National Criminal Justice Reference Service's Bulletin Board System (BBS). To access the BBS via the Internet, telnet to ncjrsbbs.aspensys.com and login as ncjrs. Those without Internet access can direct dial through a modem to 301-738-8895. Modems should be set at 9600 baud and 8-N-1.
RE: ENDING FEDERAL COURT CONTROL OF TEXAS' PRISON SYSTEM
Great news! With the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act in Congress last week, the five year effort by Republican legislators to end federal Judge William Wayne Justice's perpetual control over Texas prisons the right way, permanently, by restoring true state sovereignty for Texas and all 50 States under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is about to come to fruition. US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Congressman Bill Archer, Texas Senator J. E. "Buster" Brown and I have created The Fund To Take Back Texas Prisons, Inc., as a fundraising vehicle to hire expert, outside counsel capable of winning a watershed 10th Amendment decision from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court in the Ruiz prison lawsuit.
I know you share our goals, true state sovereignty over state prisons that are free from the threat of future federal interference, governed by officials you elect who are completely accountable to the voting public for prison policies like early release and inmate amenities.
We need your help! Congressman Archer will keynote our first fund-raiser which is scheduled for Friday, May 31, 1996, 7:30 PM at the Westin Galleria, Houston. Tickets are $125.00 ($50.00 for Justice For All members) and may be obtained by mailing a check to The Fund To Take Back Texas Prisons, 1500 S. Dairy Ashford, Suite 115, Houston, TX 77077.