A Jeffersonian In East Texas

January 27, 2008

An Open Invitation: Upcoming Elections In East Texas

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We believe that the public is best served by open discourse. It is the spirit on which this country was founded. In that spirit, I would like to invite the public to comment on the upcoming election season, the primaries, and the May election as well. Let us know about what you have on your mind. If you are a local official, we would love to hear from you. If you are a party official, we would love to hear from you. You already know my opinions, now give us yours. You can do that here, or on our sister blog tax.dotrevolt.info

Feel Free to share your thoughts and ideas, avoid profanity, or encouraging illegal activities, and we will publish your comments. Whether you have election related, jail related, local issues, Smith county, city of Tyler, roads, bridges, taxes, or if you just hate insurance companies (yes Mr. Miller, I hate them too, and you are welcome to comment as well) write your thoughts in our comment section, and get the debate started!

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January 16, 2008

Official Arrogance Search Reveals: Smith County Ranks High

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We got a comment on the article Smith County Commissioners: People Despise Arrogance.

This is the comment, with an extra note from the editor:

If you look up “arrogance” in the dictionary, you will not see a photo of the Smith county Commissioners Court, but you probably should!

If you search the term “county commissioner arrogance” on Google, you will find Smith County Commissioners mentioned in the number 1 slot! At least at this time.

I suppose everyone excels at something!

Comment by just this guy — January 15, 2008

Editors Note:

Thanks for the comment! Great insight! We decided to do some more research, on the term “official arrogance,” and guess what? Smith county didn’t get number 1, but they came in at number 6 and number 8 out of a half million searches. Pretty darn impressive!

January 13, 2008

Guilty Until Proven Innocent-You Will Never Be Proven Innocent!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 1:15 am
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In Smith county, you are guilty until proven innocent! The trick? You will never be proven innocent! That statement may not be true in every case, but it is a statistical probability! The Houston Chronicle has it right in a story that may be a little outdated, but is still highly relevant: ‘Win at all costs’ is Smith County’s rule, critics claim.

Most local attorneys know this and will try to make the best deal they can for the accused, (or for themselves) and leave it at that. The system has been this way for a long time. The problem is, that it is not only the guilty who go down, it is, in many cases, as with the Kerry Max Cook case, the innocent who wind up behind bars! Well, that seems to be the nature of Smith county justice.

This brief post was a result of a comment from Rustybucket under

Official Arrogance Smith County Commissioners

This is the comment:

“I’m going off track here,but I just want to know why a lawyer would take your money and instead of fighting for your rights,tell you it will be a long time before you go to court,then will not use any of the witnesses that you have are no good.well I got 3 15 min. sessions with this laywer he had to go to the club an play moon you know,and convenenced me to plead guilty because he said go for a bench trial before judge Kent,on the day of trail they served my wife and he said that the judge didnt have an open mine and would throw the book at me.I had a good case if he would have gotten off his rear but I found out this lawyer is a loser,Everbody told me how good he was then I got to looking an everyone I know who he worked for is in prison he got mad at me because I wouldnt take prision over pirole he wouldnt even help me get a license.The morale of this story is if your lawyer goes to clubs and drinks with you dont use him he’s not a friend he’s there making you think he’s good.”

For more on the Cook case:
frontline: the plea: four stories: kerry max cook | PBS

January 12, 2008

Comment By Reader On Child Support Smith County

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 9:26 am
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The following comment was found under:
Smith Officials, Wake Up! We are Trying To Help!

I thought it might be lost there, so I decided to add it here.

I like this website. I’ve got to share my story. I was unfortunately one of those targeted for back child support in Smith County. It’s unfortunate because immediately after my ex-wife and I separated, we both left Smith County! This was almost 10 yrs ago, and I had no clue about the jurisdiction. I had to change careers, and there were some periods when I was out of work. This is when I racked up the back child support. It got up over $10k. Meanwhile, my ex-wife remarried within 2-3 months after the divorce was finalized. Finally I got steady work, and it was just at that time that I received a summons. I showed up in court and was placed on probation. This was a little over 3 yrs ago. I was living in Harris County. The judge ordered me to show up in Smith County once a month to pay my probation officer. I was able to go to it a couple of times, but it became prohibitive. I wasn’t making enough money to afford the gas there and back, plus pay the fees to the probation officer and stay on top of child support. Another hearing was scheduled, and I explained it to the judge (Judge Kent, I think, but can’t swear to it…). I also explained that my present wife is disabled and unable to work, and I am responsible for taking care of her, her stepdaughter, and the son than she and I have had together. The judge didn’t care about the distance; she said people came in from Louisiana all the time, so why should I be any different? I felt like I was being punished for living outside the county. That day, I was required to go to my bank and get a cashiers check for about $300 or they would issue a warrant for my arrest. This, on top of the gas, etc. was killing me. I hired an attorney at that time “to keep me out of jail”. I paid $1000 and figured he had resolved things with Smith County. Now I don’t think he did a damn thing. Then my employer had layoffs. They offered to spare me, however, if I would relocate to another state. I did, and spent the past 3 years there. During this time, I have worked down over half of the back child support. Last year, the state increased my support by $50, to be applied to back child support. I had no problem with that. I made good with the company, and applied for a job which would allow me to transfer back to Texas. I got the job and came back at the end of last year. Everything seemed to be going well. I figured the Smith County Probationary stuff had resolved itself, and with my back child support now being below $5000, was excited about getting that monkey off my back. I’ve gotten to see my children again, and was excited about getting to build some kind of relationship with them. Now I’ve started getting calls from the probation unit again! I said I’m caught up; the account is even scheduled to go on positive status on my credit report this year. They say yeah, but there’s an outstanding warrant and if I get stopped in Texas, I’ll spend up to 10 days in jail while they drag me back to Smith County to appear before the judge. They want me to come in on my own recognizance to address the contempt of court charges. Uggh! I can see it now — I go up there, don’t have much to say other than that I have a great job, am working down the back child support, building a relationship with my children, and don’t have the resources to make the trip to a county none of us have lived in for 9 years! I’m pretty sure the judge will throw me in the clink, and I’ll lose everything…. I think about it all the time now……..Thanks, Smith County! /sarcasm I’m sorry for such a long comment, but I’m curious as to whether or not there are others out there with a story similar to my own.

Comment by InThePoorhouse — January 11, 2008

Editors Note:

There are a lot of them! Hopefully your story will encourage more of them to tell theirs. Thanks for telling it.

The Fear Factor

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 9:16 am

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Another older post from the older blog:

Posted by 1jeffersonian at 11/13/2007
The Fear Factor
I had a surprising surge in traffic to this blog, so decided to post a little more often than I have in the past. I went looking for a piece that I read right after the last jail vote, so that I could mention it here, and found the source of the increase in traffic. Scott Henson’s Grits for Breakfast, my favorite blog on this subject, had an entry titled:
Voters who rejected county jails looking for better justice policies.

Thanks for the mention Scott! It is a fine work that you do!

The title about sums it up. Why then are people not saying this in public? Well, a lot of folks are afraid of being branded as being too lenient, or too liberal. A lot of folks, who have seen how the system works, are just plain afraid to say anything negative about it. The common denominator is fear!

I have had people who know me, and know that I write this blog, tell me that they read it, but won’t comment publicly because they are afraid that there could be repercussions. I understand that fear. While it is not the same in scope, it nonetheless reminds me of of Solzhenitsyn, and when I think about it, I get that same sinking feeling I got when I first read “The Gulag Archipelago.” The comparisons or only minor ones, but even the communists had to start somewhere!

Unlike those in the injustice system of the former Soviet Union, we have some degree of choice. We have choices to make, that can make a difference, and can keep our system from becoming the human garbage dump that theirs was!

It is my contention that the reason for the failure of the last jail bond, was the same as the failure of the first, and will continue to be a thorn in the side of the county until something is done about it. It is not just the money, it is the fear of the system.

January 11, 2008

Smith Officials, Wake Up! We are Trying To Help!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 3:20 am

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Let’s try some logic!

The issue, as it is being presented to the residents of Tyler, and Smith county, is jail overcrowding.

The message from residents of the county is that we do not want to solve the problem by building a huge new jail complex.

Both of these propositions, taken together, constitute a pretty good argument for another option.

Building a smaller, or less expensive jail, is still part of the first proposition, and would satisfy no one. It will not fly.

Building a jail in stages is still a part of the first proposition, it is grounded as well.

So, logically, those propositions are not options. What is left? Only one thing, really, reduce the numbers!

If, indeed, Smith county officials are concerned with jail overcrowding, and that is the reason for the perceived need for a new jail complex, then it is time to look at that option!

January 10, 2008

Smith County Officials Still Don’t Get it!

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Smith County Schools or Jails | School Bond vs. Jail Bond

Vote Yes For The New Smith County Jail Proposal!

Smith Commissioner Fleming | Well Bless Her Heart…

Another local paper article on Smith County Jail overcrowding and officials response to state legislation allowing for the ticketing of some misdemeanors in place of incarceration has come to my attention.

In short, officials just don’t seem to want to alleviate the overcrowding situation, even when handed the solution in writing, and signed by the Governor! The stated issue seems to be that no one has told them how to do it! Surely someone in officialdom, can come up with a method!

If jail overcrowding is the big problem, and it is, then solving a few minor problems to get the solution should be something they are willing to do. Perhaps they are afraid that this might work, and then all the plans for jailzilla would just plain look silly. It might make the public wonder why so much taxpayer money was spent trying to get something that we don’t even need!

Officials in Tyler and Smith county need to wake up! Proposing a new jail plan in May will look ridiculous if the alternatives are not given a chance to work. County commissioners have already ditched the funding for a program put in place by our judges, and now the D.A. has trashed the efforts of our legislators by refusing to even give the new plan a try! If you think the public was hacked off about commissioners giving themselves raises before the last bond fiasco, wait till you see what happens in the next one!

The following is an older post on the same issue. It was regurgitated from the old blog. County officials might do well to ruminate on it.

Posted by ajeffersonian at 12/9/2007
Smith County Officials Still Don’t Get It!
It has once again become apparent that Smith county officials don’t get it! There has been some talk about tweaking the jail proposal for the May 2008 election, possibly offering a “build it in stages” type plan for the voters.

This is becoming a regular event in Smith county, and the poll results get more lopsided each time it is presented, and still the supporters continue down the same road.

What Jailzilla supporters and the media seem to missing, is the fact that it does not matter how far or how fast they travel down this road, or how doggedly and repeatedly they do so, it is still the wrong road. There are a lot of comments from officials. There are a lot of stories quoting the officials, what is lacking is input from the people who actually walk into the voting booths! It smacks of official arrogance!

The people of Smith county will not say yes to any jail until something is done to lower the incarceration rates! The fact that this is not the main issue in the public domain has at least two causes:

1. The media has not made this part of the issue an area of focus.
2. People don’t want to talk about it in public for fear of being branded “liberals” or “bleeding hearts,” or for fear of harassment.

There will have to be some trust built before the public will even be willing to talk about it! Sure, people will talk around the issue, they will talk about ill timed raises, or jail cost, but the real reasons stay hidden under a cloud of distrust.

The big issue then, becomes the issue of trust. Why it is missing, and how to regain it should become the focus. That is the first step. Whether anyone can see this, or will take any positive action on it, is anyones guess.

Official Arrogance Smith County Commissioners

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 10:07 pm

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Commissioners Keep Proving Our Point!
There is nothing quite as sad as being constantly proven right when you wish someone would prove you wrong. No matter how arrogant you want to make the Smith county commissioners court out to be, they will still give you more reasons to confirm it!
Commissioners Suspend Part Of Program’s Funding
Well Judge Kent, no good idea goes unpunished! Only unfunded! It will take a lot to convince someone who is already convinced that they and their cronies are the repository for all knowledge!

“Grits” Blogger Comments On Judge Clark’s Statements

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 2:54 am
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 Hey! Why don’t you bookmark this blog so you can find it easily next time. You might want to use one of the social bookmarks found here:

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The following post came after seeing the “Grits For Breakfast” post on the remarks found on this blog. These comments were also found on several other criminal justice related blogs, and the whole thing kind of caught me by surprise.

See what you miss when you don’t pay attention? I have been pretty busy lately, and haven’t paid a lot of attention to this blog. Sorry folks, but you gotta make a living. Every time I turn my back on this thing for a few days, something else happens.

I did a search today for “Smith County Jail” on Google, and clicked on the first thing that had anything related to the jail that wasn’t something from the county, and it was an article in “Grits For Breakfast” concerning Judge Clarks comments on this blog. See what you miss when you don’t pay attention? I thought I would include an excerpt and the link so you can read it in full:

“Use of county jail by Smith County for child support scofflaws contributes to overincarceration

Smith County District Judge Carole Clark writes in to the blog Smith County: Tell the Truth to explain under what circumstances the county incarcerates probationers for non-payment of child support, a practice the county began in 2002. The optional program puts child support scofflaws on a “civil” probation that uses the county jail to enforce payments…

I commend Judge Clark for explaining the program to a local blog, and recognize the good intentions behind the use of the county jail in this fashion – but they are the type of intentions with which the road to hell is paved, as these offenders have become a significant contributor to local jail overcrowding. Now that the AIC is in place (it wasn’t when the program started), it should be the first-line sentence for these offenders instead of requiring “get attention” jail time. And given the cost of incarceration, it would behoove the county to create public works jobs, WPA style, compared to the cost of incarcerating those same folks.

This is a great example of how much of the overincarceration in Smith and other counties is mostly volitional, based on choices made by elected officials, not on population increases or big-picture demographics.”

Judge Carole Clark On Child Support

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 2:36 am
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In response to the article bellow, on Nov. 13, Judge Carole Clark made the following comment on the old blog:

Judge Carole Clark wrote:
I would be more than happy to discuss the Smith County Child Support Probation program to you if you would come by the office. It really is working very well at collecting child support. It is five years old and now being emulated by many counties in the East Texas area.

There is more to it than the jail piece which is a very small percentage.
It has collected about 3.5 million dollars per year, the court costs accumulated (most of which goes to the county) the probation fees which pays the salaries of the probation officers and a small fee to the Office of Attorney General to recoup some of the state tax dollars.

My office phone is 903-590-1601.

Thank you.

Our response followed:

Better yet Judge Clark, Why not tell us about it here online? I am sure our readers would like to know more, I know I would. I will be happy to allow your comments with no editing.

Judge Clark’s Gracious response is printed here:

Judge Carole Clark wrote:
The Smith County Child Support Accountability Program was begun in March, 2002. It was a collaborative effort between the Smith County Probation Department, the Office of the Attorney General, local lawyers, the 321st District court, the CCL and the CCL #2.

This program was aimed at the thirty percent of the population who do not pay their child support as ordered and for which there had not previously been adequate tools to enforce these obligations. The program uses laws currently in place which allow for people who have been found in contempt for failure to pay child support when able to do so to be on probation. This probation is civil probation but has many of the same requirements as criminal probation. They report to a probation officer regularly, pay a fee to support the program, work and pay their support.

The program began with 100 people and one probation officer. It now has six probation officers and appx. 1100 persons. The history of this program is quite amazing. For many of the persons on probation, working and paying support are new experiences and many owe tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent support.

If someone on probation does not comply with the probation requirements, their probation officer , after attempts to remediate the situation fail, will ask the Office of the ATtorney General to file papers with the court requesting the probation be revoked. The maximum jail time is 180 days.

The most common conditions of probation I see violated are reporting to probation and paying the child support. An arrest warrant is issued and when arrested the person is brought to court on a Monday or Thursday afternoon. I see people twice a week as the law requires me to see them quickly.

If after hearing, I find a person did violate their probation and has no reasonable excuse for doing so, some jail time is awarded as a means of “getting their attention.” Some of these people are not regulars in the jail and for them, it is usually a “wake up call.” For some, unfortunately, jail for violation of probation is a familiar story.

After a time in jail, I call the person over to court and let them go to the AIC for more intensive monitoring. However, a number of these folks violate criminal laws while they are not paying child support and I cannot deal with their case until the criminal case is handled.

If AIC is appropriate, I send them. The results are very gratifying. Many are now working and paying. Last Friday, 149 were in the AIC. Not all are child support. Of those, 110 were working. Many have never worked at a legal job.

If AIC doesn’t work, the law provides referral to the Da’s office can be made for criminal prosecution for a state jail felony.

All in all, the programs are collecting in excess of 3.5 million dollars per month, plus fees for probation, court costs and child support.

We have reduced the 30% of nonpayors to appx. 10% and are collecting money for families.

At a later time the Judge added:

Judge Carole Clark wrote:
There is a small typo in my entry. It is 3.5 million per year. Eventually, I hope it to be per month!
ajeffersonian wrote:
I am sure everyone understood. A little Freudian slip no doubt!

One other comment came to this blog in response to Judge Clark’s comments:

Father wrote:
“Contempt of court is contempt of court, even when it is contempt of the equally import possession and access portion of the Child Support Review Order. I pray that the court will someday hold the custodial parents fully and legally accountable for their obligations to act in the best interest of the child and not use children as pawns. Children who grow up with out fathers suffer, and society pays the cost. Emperor Clark needs to look at what she’s wearing.”

I decided to include this in todays post since the reply was to a relatively older post, and seems to deal with a topic that gets lost in the scuffle.

There were other comments and commentary from other blogs related to this topic. Perhaps the one that drew the most attention was this one from “Grits”

Use of county jail by Smith County for child support scofflaws contributes to overincarceration

That story was then picked up by a large number of other blogs.

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