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Articles by Gary Hunter

Texas State Auditor’s Reports Find Problems with Parole System

Two audits of Texas’ parole system, in 2008 and 2010, revealed a number of problems and inefficiencies.

According to the first audit, released in June 2008, approximately 1,250 Texas parole officers supervised 77,526 parolees during fiscal year 2007. Five counties – Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis – accounted for over half of the parolee case load.

The State Auditor’s Office determined that the only efficient aspect of Texas’ parole system was in the area of parole revocations. In other areas, both the board that determines parole review criteria as well as parole offices that monitor parolees fell short of acceptable operational standards.

A major factor in the parole system’s inefficiency was its antiquated computer database. In 2000 the state contracted with a company called Sapient to implement the Offender Information Management System (OIMS). OIMS consisted of three modules and was projected to go online in 2001. The first module, used for parole supervision, was not operational until 2004 and still had numerous problems. Modules two and three, used for determining parole releases and parole revocations, respectively, were seven years behind schedule when the audit was performed.

The projected cost of OIMS was $31 million, and two of the three ...

Maryland: Convicted Felons Receive Victims’ Compensation

Since 2003, Maryland’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has awarded about $1.8 million to claimants with criminal convictions. In Baltimore, over 120 people who received victims’ compensation had been arrested for selling or manufacturing drugs; more than seventy of those payments went to families to cover burial expenses.

Deandra M. Gaskins had convictions for car theft, armed robbery and drug dealing. In 2005 he was shot during a drive-by in South Baltimore, and his injuries resulted in thousands of dollars worth of hospital bills. He applied to the compensation fund for assistance and was approved.

Gaskins had just left work on the night he was shot. As he sat on the front steps of a friend’s rowhouse, four men in a car stopped in front of him. One asked Gaskins for the time. When he replied he didn’t know, the man responded, “You know what time it is,” then opened fire with an assault rifle.

“It snapped my wrist out of place and slung me up against a wall,” said Gaskins, who lamented his permanent physical injuries, saying, “I can’t play with my kids the way I want to anymore.”

In an unrelated incident a gang member was shot to death ...

Texas Legislator Who Helped Prisoners’ Families Indicted, Convicted, Sentenced

For 14 years, Texas State Rep. Terri Hodge (D-Dallas) was a staunch defender of minorities and prisoners’ rights in the Texas legislature. On October 1, 2007, federal prosecutors indicted Hodge on 14 counts of corruption including bribery, fraud and conspiracy. The indictment created a firestorm of controversy.

The 31-count main indictment named a number of prominent Dallas citizens including former city council member and Mayor Pro Tem Donald W. Hill. Also named, and most closely connected to Hodge, was real estate developer Brian L. Potashnik and his wife Cheryl.

Rep. Hodge and other defendants were accused of accepting bribes in return for providing letters of support to help Potashnik’s company, Southwest Housing, obtain lucrative tax credits for building low-income apartments in southern Dallas.

Outspoken, Hodge passionately professed her innocence. “People say that I got paid for this, man, that’s (expletive). I’m not the only elected official that has given a letter to developers putting projects in their districts. I guess what really tied me in is not only had I given a letter, I was living in one of his affordable apartments.”

In August 2008, Rep. Hodge’s attorneys petitioned the federal district court in Dallas to try her separately from ...

Prison Nursery Programs Promote Bonding, Reduce Recidivism

Several studies, highlighted by the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) in a recent report, have shown that allowing infants born in prison to remain with their incarcerated mothers enhances bonding and leads to decreased recidivism.

Prior to the 1950s, nurseries for prisoners who gave birth were fairly common. But by the ...

Texas Youth Commission Pays $625,000 to Settle Abuse Suit

To settle a federal lawsuit, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) agreed to pay $625,000 in damages to four youths who were grossly abused by the states’ corrupt juvenile justice system.
The largest payout of $345,000 went to plaintiff Joseph Galloway, who had filed suit alleging that the TYC failed to ...

Aryan Warriors Prison Gang Prosecuted in Nevada

Nevada prison officials recently had to come to grips with two stark realities. First, for decades their correctional facilities have been a haven for gang-related crime and brutality, and second, the state’s own corrupt prison guards played a role in perpetuating those dangerous and violent conditions.

A federal investigation into ...

Prisoner’s Homicide at Maryland Jail Not Prosecuted

Ronnie White’s death by strangulation will go unpunished. On June 2, 2009, almost a year after White died amid a flurry of controversy at the Prince George’s County Correctional Center in Maryland, state’s attorney Glenn F. Ivey announced there was not enough evidence to charge anyone with his death.

On ...

ICE Policies and U.S. Deportation Laws Violate Human Rights

A 64-page report issued last year by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-profit watchdog organization, indicates that changes in U.S. deportation laws implemented by Congress in 1996 are mostly targeting immigrants who commit nonviolent crimes.

Statistical data accumulated from 1997 through mid-2007 show that approximately 897,000 immigrants, both legal and ...

“Back to School” is a Guide to Success Following Release from Prison

Even the most diligent planning does not ensure success. However, it is a proven fact that education significantly enhances one’s chances to succeed. Back to School: A Guide to Continuing Your Education After Prison (the Guide) offers numerous helpful insights for entry or reentry into educational programs.

For many prisoners, ...

Maryland Prison Guards Busted for Helping Gang Members

In April 2009, four Maryland prison guards were indicted for participating in a variety of illegal activities involving the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) at the Metropolitan Transition Center (MTC) in Baltimore. Guards Asia Burrus, Musheerah Habeebullah, Takevia Smith and Terry Robe were accused of supplying incarcerated BGF members with contraband ...