Parole and Probation Violators Make Up Bulk of Prison Population

By Peek & Toland on September 8, 2019

Parole and probation programs are designed to offer alternatives to incarceration by allowing them to serve sentences for criminal convictions outside of jail or prison walls. According to a report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG), a large portion of prison inmates are incarcerated due to probation or parole violations, either due to technical violations or new offenses. This disappointing data undermines the premise of probation and parole in general.

The report states that 45% of state prison admissions across the country are based on parole or probation violations, whether for new offenses or technical violations. As many as one-third of these violations are due to technical violations, although others are far more serious, such as violations for committing new crimes. Some examples of technical violations include failing drug tests, being around others with criminal records, and being out past curfew.

Parole and Probation Violators Make Up Bulk of Prison Population

Overall, nearly one in every four inmates, or 280,000, are incarcerated for these violations on any given day. In 13 different states, more than one in three people are incarcerated due to supervision violations daily. In the state of Texas, about 16% of the incarcerated population is due to probation or parole violations on any given day, or just under 23,000 people.

The total proportion of state prison admissions based on supervision violations in 20 states is over 50%. Texas is only slightly below that mark, coming in at 47%. These statistics show that half the prison admissions in half the country are solely due to parole or probation violations, which is a high cost to society. Based on this report, the costs of incarcerating these individuals top $9.3 billion annually. If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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Trial Ordered over Heat Deaths in Texas Prisons

By Peek & Toland on November 21, 2017

Texas prisons are uncompromising places. While prison time is meant to be a punishment, a recent lawsuit claims extreme conditions are infringing the civil rights of inmates.

The litigation relates to a spate of deaths in Texas prisons that are linked to extreme heat.

A federal judge ordered a civil trial of the Texas prison system in a case relating the death of an inmate, reports CBS news.

The lawsuit followed the heat-related death of Larry Gene McCollum. It accuses state prison officials of refusing to provide air conditioning in prisons that could have kept 21 other inmates alive.

Lawsuit over heat deaths in Texas prisons

Heat deaths in Texas prisons lead to a lawsuit

McCollum was a 58-year-old taxi driver from Waco. He is one of 22 inmates who perished from the heat in Texas prisons since 1998. McCollum was serving a one-year sentence in the Hutchins State Jail near Dallas for writing a bad check. He died of heat stroke in 2011.

He was one of 10 inmates who died in the heatwave of 2011, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison of Houston wrote. He had only been at the jail for seven days.

In an opinion released this year Ellison, who visited state prisons during the heat wave, recorded information from the jail logs. In the day before McCollum’s death, the air temperature exceeded 90 degrees for over nine hours.

The temperature nudged above 100 degrees for at least six hours and reached 107 degrees.

Information provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston suggested the heat index that day was about 150 degrees.

The air handlers used for ventilation in the prison merely circulated the air around the facility without changing its temperature, Ellison wrote.

“Larry McCollum’s tragic death was not simply bad luck, but an entirely preventable consequence of inadequate policies. These policies contributed to the deaths of 11 men before McCollum and 10 men after him.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice intends to appeal the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.

The CBS report stated of the 109 prisons in the Texas system, only 30 are fully air-conditioned, notwithstanding a requirement by state law for prisons to be air conditioned.

When air conditioning is unavailable, many inmates struggle to acclimatize in the middle of the summer.

These alarming conditions at Texas jails are just another reason why defendants should try to avoid incarceration at all costs.  Many inmates in Texas are being held for relatively minor crimes.

Find out more about jail release here on our website. Contact our Texas criminal defense lawyers here.

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Texas’ Prison Population Continues to Fall

By Peek & Toland on November 20, 2017

In past years, Texas has gained a formidable “lock ‘em up” reputation. Although this endures today and the state still has the largest prison population in the country. Texas’ prison population continues to fall.

Recently the San Antonio Current noted the state’s massive prison population is shrinking at a faster rate than the rest of the country.

Part of that is due to criminal justice reforms aimed at offsetting the need for new jails.

The Current noted in 2010, the prison population in the Lone Star State reached an all-time high when there were 173,649 inmates behind bars.
However, the Sentencing Project noted in a report that the number had fallen by five percent in five years. That equated to almost 8,700 fewer people in prison than in 2010.

Texas' prison population is falling

Texas’ prison population continues to fall

Although the report pointed to the marked decline in Texas’ prison population, the five percent fall was small compared to many states. New Jersey saw a decline of almost 35 percent and it fell by 29 percent in New York.
Texas Criminal justice experts say the fall in the prison population is linked to reforms Texas lawmakers started to implement in 2007, in an attempt to reduce the state’s ballooning criminal justice budget. We have noted some of these changes like the decriminalization of truancy.

Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs said:

“For the last decade, Texas has been making a concerted effort to turn the tide.”

In past years, Texas sought to meet the spike in the prison population by providing more beds.  Now it has started putting more money into diversion programs and treatment services that tackled the underlying reasons why Texans ended up in prison in the first place.

Deitch said Texas has not seen reductions in its prison population to rival states like New Jersey because it failed to pass a comprehensive prison reform bill.

In New Jersey, sentences for drug crimes were slashed while California revisited the controversial ‘three strikes and you’re out’ legislation.

Reform in Texas has been a more gradual process and Deitch is concerned the pace of reform is slowing with no major criminal justice reforms in this year’s legislative session.

At the same time at the national level, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing an approach to incarceration that echoes the 1980s tough on crime rhetoric.

In contrast to in the 1980s, crime levels in the U.S. remain low, although violent offenses have been rising in many cities over the last two years. Cities like Austin have seen marked increases in violent crime over the last year.

Deitch is critical of the approach, saying the new administration is not attuned to the facts and data related to crime trends.

While Texas has made strides to cut its jail population in recent years, it still has a well-earned reputation for being tough on crime. If you have been charged with an offense in Laredo, Austin, Round Rock or elsewhere in Texas, it’s vital to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Texas Man is Sentenced to 30 Years for Drug Crimes Committed in Prison

By Peek & Toland on September 26, 2016

For decades the federal authorities have targeted drug crimes with stiff sentences. However, incarceration is not always the end of the matter. Recently, a man from Texas was sentenced to 30 years on five drug-related felonies that were committed when he was in prison.

Joel Lopez, 38, committed the crimes on a cell phone from the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion in Illinois, according to media reports. He was accused of passing the phone number of a co-defendant in Texas who distributes drugs to two fellow inmates at the prison.

Prosecutors said money from the drugs deals was then wired back via bank accounts to the co-defendant who then gave some of it to Lopez’s family in Texas.

Many drug crimes lead to federal prison sentences

Drug offenders often end up in federal prison

Lopez was convicted of conspiring to distribute 21 kilograms of cocaine, more than 10 kilograms of crystal meth and more than 19 kilograms of marijuana.  He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  It was Lopez’s federal third conviction for drug crimes.

Many drug crimes are dealt with by the federal authorities. Offenses such as trafficking or distribution often attract long prison sentences. Our Texas criminal defense attorneys represent people who have been charged with drug offenses.

When Drug Crimes Become Federal Offenses

If you are arrested for a drug crime, it may not always be clear if you will be prosecuted at a federal or a local level. While it makes little sense for the federal authorities to become involved in crimes like marijuana possession, the feds have a drug enforcement remit.

While there is a longstanding federal strategy in place to fight the abuse and distribution of drugs, every state also has its own set of drug laws.

Typically, most federal drug convictions concern trafficking, while most of the state and local arrests are made on charges of possession. About half of all local drug arrests are for the possession of marijuana, states NOLO.

The severity of the consequences of a conviction set federal drug offenses aside from local ones.

Federal drug charges usually entail harsher punishments and longer prison sentences. While drug possession is usually charged as a misdemeanor and may involve a short jail term, drug dealers often receive long sentences at federal facilities.

If you have been charged with a federal drug crime, it’s vital that you get experienced legal representation because you could be facing a long incarceration. We will protect your rights if you are accused of drug trafficking offenses. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.

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