The plan by TYC Special Master Jay Kimbrough to review the sentences of youth offenders who had their sentences extended by TYC authorities to see who might now be locked up for purposes of retaliation or intimidation has run into opposition from an unexpected (to me, anyway) source.
Next week, a panel that will include representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, among others, is expected to begin examining the procedures by which many of the system’s 4,600 offenders had their punishments lengthened at TYC.
A retired judge yet to be named will make the panel’s recommendations for release. Ed Owens, TYC’s newly appointed acting executive director, will make the final decisions.
“I think ultimately we’re talking about a fourth of those in custody, maybe more, who may be eligible for release,” said Rep. Jerry Madden, the Plano Republican who chairs the House Corrections Committee.
Some lawmakers fretted that dangerous offenders may be let go in the rush to reform TYC.
“The last time we started releasing people early, we ended up with Kenneth Allen McDuff,” said Rep. Jim Dunnam, the Waco Democrat who serves on the Corrections Committee, referring to a Texas murderer who was paroled and went on to kill at least three more women before being recaptured, convicted and executed.
I don’t understand Rep. Dunnam’s concern. What Kimbrough and the ACLU are looking for is kids who have served their terms but are still in the system because one of the corrupt and/or indifferent administrators has refused to let them out. If we had a functional TYC, these kids would have already been released. Yes, it’s true, one of them might be a truly bad actor, but that’s beside the point. We don’t keep people locked up based on suspicion – at least, we’re not supposed to. If there are legitimate grounds for keeping someone incarcerated, that’s one thing. But keeping kids incarcerated who should have been released because of this kind of fear strikes me as irrational, and not particularly constructive. I hope Rep. Dunnam rethinks his position here.
Vince reports on the case of a Paris, Texas 14 year old named Shaquanda Cotton, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for pushing a hall monitor at her school. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.
Finally, the Chron blog says that the new and improved TYC will get more money to do its job better. Hopefully, that will come with some real oversight attached to it.