Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kicking the can...

It was actually a story I heard this morning about some miscreant, a young man who kicked a cat that sparked the idea of discussing prisons.

There is and can be absolutely no excuse whatsoever for cruelty to animals. I rescued a dog who had been tortured as a puppy and to this day would like to see done to that man what he did to her. But I digress.

The story about the abuse to the cat included a vigorous discussion about putting the offender in prison for a minimum of a year. While I agree some kind of punishment should be meted out, prison may not be the best idea.

People across the nation say we're locking up too many people for, in their eyes, relatively minor crimes. For several years, 'three strikes and you're out' swept the nation. More prisons, but not enough based on that standard, were built. Prison populations swelled beyond comprehension and some states, like California, were ordered by the federal government to come up with a plan to treat inmates better as the feds determined prisoners' rights were being abused. Prisoners incarcerated for relatively minor crimes started being released back into general society.
In Texas, we've ended up with prisons that stand empty because sentencing guidelines changed, people were paroled, private prisons took over and inmates were sent to facilities in other states, or various other reasons. What's to be done with those monolithic blocks of concrete and steel that cost money to operate even when empty? Fill them back up with criminals who will be paroled about the time their processing and paperwork is done? The boom and bust cycle of building and filling prisons them emptying them is unsustainable.

No one wants the next prison built anywhere near them. I get that. And yes there are people who should without question be locked away until their end of days, never to walk the streets and harm another person ever again.

So what do we do with the people who need more than a slap on the wrist but not a prison sentence? The Texas Public Policy Foundation has some interesting thoughts on this conundrum. I don't necessarily work on corrections issues, but I do think discussion is healthy.

What do you say?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Flip Flop

While the hand wringing and gnashing of teeth has ended for one party, for the other it's just beginning.

Used to be that an election meant you got your airwaves and your mailbox back for at least a year before the next cycle of propaganda and oneupmanship began. Not any longer.

Electioneering has become such an expensive sport that candidates must spend the entirety of the legislating cycle raising money. There's nowhere for exhausted donors to hide. And perpetual fund raising means perpetual politics, tearing down and maligning the other side in an effort to get enough of someone's attention that they'll open their checkbook to you. (Yes, I know that super PACs and IEs contribute far more spending than candidates do these days, but that's a post for another time.) When all you do is campaign, it can be difficult to shift gears into governing.

Fortunately, in Texas, there's no fund raising while the legislature is in session. At least there's a brief reprieve from always being faced with a collection plate. And with a part-time legislature, the folks that make the laws have to go back to their districts and work, actually live with, under, and by the laws they pass. When 3/4 of your term in office is spent as a private citizen, I think you tend to take more notice of what exactly it is you're doing to residents of your state during the months you're at the Capitol. At least I hope so.

Anyhow, one cycle has barely ended and the next has already begun. Heaven help us all keep a relative sense of civility. And maybe even a sense of humor.