Tribpedia: Texas Department Of Criminal Justice

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is the state agency responsible for managing state prisons and jails and the oversight of more than 150,000 offenders. The agency also supervises offenders released from prison on parole.

The board is composed of nine members who are appointed by the governor to staggered, six-year terms. The governor also designates one member as ...

Can a Court of Inquiry Take On the Willingham Case?

John Bradley and District Judge Charlie Baird.
John Bradley and District Judge Charlie Baird.

Judge Charlie Baird will decide today whether to recuse himself from an investigation into the innocence of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Corsicana man executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three young daughters. But with or without Baird, a bigger question is in play: Is a court of inquiry the appropriate venue to consider Willingham’s guilt or innocence?

Austin Crime Lab Gets Positive Audit

A former Austin Police Department employee’s allegations of misconduct at the city's DNA Crime Lab prompted an outside audit of the lab. As Mose Buchele of KUT News reports, the results of that audit have been released.

Many Choosing Jail Time Over Probation

Across Texas, defendants charged with misdemeanor offenses are choosing to spend time in the local lockup rather than endure months on probation. They don’t want to deal with the hassle of probation's conditions, and they can’t afford the thousands of dollars in fees that it requires. People on both sides of the criminal justice system agree that the trend is troubling: It’s helping to fill local jails beyond capacity, and even worse, it means that people charged with DWI, possession of small amounts of drugs and family violence are not getting the treatment they need.

Massive Cuts Proposed for TX Criminal Justice

As part of an occasional series looking into how shortfall-inspired budget cuts could affect different state agencies heading into the 2011 legislative session, Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports on the likely impact on the state's criminal justice system.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 9/20/10

Aguilar on Mexican journalists in grave danger, Galbraith on the continuing saga of Texas vs. the EPA, Ramshaw on whether a broken hospital bed constitutes medical malpractice, M. Smith on the latest delay in the Cameron Todd Willingham case, Hamilton interviews a Sarah Palin-approved GOP candidate for Congress, Stiles goes all interactive in chronicling the massive increase in legislative filings in the last 20 years, Grissom talks about the criminalization of mental illness with an author who knows the subject first-hand, Philpott on closing the budget gap without federal stimulus money, Ramsey on everyone ignoring down-ballot candidates, Hu on the mysterious lack of Rick Perry yard signs and yours truly sits down with the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor: The best of our best from September 20 to 24, 2010.

City Jails Unregulated Despite Deaths, Complaints

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice oversees most state jails. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards presides over county jails. But the 350 city jails across Texas are wholly unregulated. The jail commission receives dozens of complaints about the conditions inside municipal lockups — most commonly about sanitation, food, supervision and medical care — but they have no power to investigate. While critics are calling on state lawmakers to implement at least minimum standards, city officials worry that expensive new rules could result in the closure of their jails, which would mean that already overflowing county jails would get even more crowded.

TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 9/6/10

Galbraith's three-parter on the battle over wind power transmission lines, Grissom on a convicted killer who got probation, Aguilar on how the U.S. census counts inmates in the Texas prison system, Stiles launches a new interactive tool tracking the candidates for governor, Hamilton on the Texas A&M University System's latest accountability measure for faculty, Hu's interview with Democratic megadonor Steve "Back to Basics" Mostyn, Philpott on how the Texas economy compares to that of other states and Ramsey on the start of the 2010 election sprint: The best of our best from Sept. 6 to 10, 2010.

Steven Hardin's parents, photographed near his burial plot.
Steven Hardin's parents, photographed near his burial plot.

Murderer Freed on Probation Fails to Comply With Terms

Tow truck driver Steven Hardin was shot and killed in April 1998 by Houston firefighter Barry Crawford during a dispute over a parking space. At the end of a high-profile trial, a jury found Crawford guilty of first-degree murder but sentenced him only to probation. A judge required the convicted killer to comply with various terms, including the payment of child support to the victim's family, but he failed to do all he was ordered. Nonetheless, a few months ago, he was released from his probation, leaving Hardin's mother with no recourse but to lobby for a change in state law.

Victim's Family Seeks Changes to Probation Law

The mother of tow truck driver Steven Hardin explains her plight after a jury found her son's killer guilty of murder but sentenced him only to probation. The killer, firefighter Barry Crawford, completed his probation a few months ago even though he didn't fulfill the terms.
District Attorney for Harris County, Pat Lykos.
District Attorney for Harris County, Pat Lykos.

An Interview With Harris County DA Pat Lykos

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The first female district attorney of Harris County on the massive scope of her job, softening her office's tough-on-crime reputation, the link between mental health care and criminal justice, why she set up a Post-Conviction Review Section and what she's learned from innocence cases so far.

Aaron Hart, in a graduation photo (left) and a jail mugshot (right).
Aaron Hart, in a graduation photo (left) and a jail mugshot (right).

Mentally Challenged Teen Faces 100 Years in Prison

He can't read or write, struggles to speak, and at age 19 has an IQ of 47. Yet a judge in the northeast Texas town of Paris still sentenced Aaron Hart to 100 years in prison for performing sexual acts on a 6-year-old neighbor. An appeals court overturned Aaron's conviction this spring. Now he sits in jail facing the same charges a second time, and his family is praying for a different outcome.

Panel OKs Recommendations to Stop Wrongful Convictions

The Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense today approved money to help establish a public defender's office in Harris County — the largest urban area in the nation without one — along with a slate of measures meant to prevent innocent people from serving time.

Robert Perkinson on the History of Texas Prisons

Texas has long been a “tough on crime” state, but there has been a movement in recent years to change the system known more for its executions than for its rehabilitations. Robert Perkinson talked with Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune about the history of the state’s prison system and the possible changes ahead.
State Sen. John Whitmire speaks to reporters.
State Sen. John Whitmire speaks to reporters.

Lawmakers Look for Ways to Prevent DWI

The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice met today to talk about ways to stop Texans from getting behind the wheel after imbibing. Judges, police and even a third-time DWI offender told lawmakers some Texas drunken driving laws could use some stiffening, while other measures take punishment too far.