A Jeffersonian In East Texas

August 17, 2008

Smith County Jail The Critical Question

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…

Sometimes when doing things the same old way for a long time, a solution to a problem seems so obvious that it’s hard to see the forest for the wood. The unfortunate part, is that is rarely the best solution. Such is the case with the Smith county jail issue. I am giving commissioners and others the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe they just don’t understand that there are options other than continually increasing incarceration rates. They may be so caught up in the idea of getting a new jail of some type, that they failed to ask and answer the main question, the most important question of all.

Do we really need a new jail?

As I said, the answer to that question may seem obvious, but it is not. Based on the nature of the offenses which are causing our current jail to be overcrowded, the problem does not seem to be the number of beds, but the snail like pace of the system. There are other factors as well. Child support violators, (after writing on this subject for two years, I still haven’t received a satisfactory answer to that question.) and possession of small, misdemeanor amounts of the dreaded cannabis plant make up a huge number of the cases awaiting trial, and inflating the numbers. This is a far cry from the “murderers and rapists” for which Sheriff Smith needs the increased space. Granted, those violators are there as well, but they make up an infinitesimal part of the population.

The answer to the question posed above is “no”. We do not need a new jail, at least not yet. Solve the other problems first, then let’s talk about an upgrade.

We should also work on learning to maintain a structure of this type, and make plans for future needs in that area. What sort of maintenance staff will be needed, and how will we pay for that increase?

There are hundreds of questions that should be asked before we proceed with such a project, and thus far, none have been answered. Not even the most significant one.

A good place to start would be for the commissioners to ask the judges for their input, and this time, to take it to heart!

A Jail or A Fence For Smith County | Revisited.

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…

I asked in a former post, whether Smith county needed a new jail, or a fence around the county. I thought it might be time to revisit the idea. Since Smith county incarcerates it’s citizens at a rate 51% higher than the state average, and since we live in a state that incarcerates 44% more of it’s citizens than the national average, which is higher than any totalitarian regime in power today, we are obviously the scum of the earth, and should all be locked away! Add the probation figures, and delete the overlaps, and the figures are frightening! Something must be done about, well, about us! We need to be kept from mingling with the population of the civilized world, lest we infect them with our peculiar criminality!

“We are not all criminals!” The statistics seem to tell a different tale! It would seem, that if you have not been incarcerated, or put on probation, you must have been missed, but don’t worry, this over site will soon be corrected! They just haven’t gotten around to you yet. They are trying to build a new jail facility just for locking you away!

  • We either have more criminals, or
  • The Sheriff’s department is better than average at catching and incarcerating criminals, or
  • Something is wrong.

Let me make the extension for you. Something is definitely wrong!

In any case, we don’t need a new jail.

  • If something is wrong, it should be corrected.
  • If the constabulary is that efficient, all crime will soon cease.
  • If we are really that bad, we don’t need a jail, we need a fence!

February 9, 2008

East Texas: Turn Off The Phone And Drive!!!

The city of Tyler, and the county of Smith, well, maybe the entire state of Texas needs to take a look at outlawing the use of cellular devices while driving. It is causing  major traffic problems, causing untold, and unreported numbers of accidents, many of them deadly. Not only should the hand held devices be illegal to use while driving, so should the earphone types. The “borg” looking creatures who use these turn off the driving portions of their brains, and turn into hazardous drivers! If the state, county, and the city do not do something about this, they should profusely apologize to, and reimburse every driver ever convicted of driving while intoxicated!

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 12, 2008

Comment By Reader On Child Support Smith County

Filed under: Uncategorized — ajeffersonian @ 9:26 am
Tags: , ,

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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.

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.

Smith County Jail Bond Goes Down In Flames…Again!

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…

Originally posted 11/6/07 (After the last jail bond voters revolt)

This posting occurred after the defeat of the jail bond in the November 2007 election. It highlights some of the reasons voters turned the bond down, and like most of the other posts you will find here, on this issue, makes a call for Smith county officials to look at the real reasons behind the bonds defeat, and make other adjustments before adding a new tax burden on the people of Smith county.

This article also received a response from Judge Carole Clark on the subject of child support. Her comments will be included in a new post very soon.

Smith County Jail Bond Goes Down In Flames Again, or When Will They Ever Learn?

Smith county residents once again showed amazingly uncommon common sense, and said no to the latest jail proposal. Guys, it is not just the tax issue! It has a lot to do with the fact that residents feel, and justly so, that it is not so much the jail that needs to be revamped, but the entire way that justice is miss-handled in this county!( All the arguments are explored elsewhere on this blog.)

The system would not need a place to stockpile increasing numbers of human bodies, if it would, process the people coming in more quickly, and offer something other than jail for non violent offenders. The state is part of the problem. Jailing child support offenders is the least sensible thing I have ever heard of. I know that something has to be done to encourage the payment of child support, but no one has ever been able to explain to me just how locking them up is benefiting anyone!

Marijuana use, may be a crime. (someone needs to explain that to a lot of lawyers, doctors and other well placed citizens of the county) but is not the same as violent crime. It makes people goofy, and sometimes just plain fat and comatose, but it’s users are rarely the rapists and murderers that we all want to lock away. If you took these “hardened criminals” out of the equation, there would be a lot more open beds.

There is an overall sense in Smith County that the gulag could swallow anyone at any time, and that makes everyone a little nervous, in a county that arrests about double the number of it’s citizens of the state average, in a state that arrests about 40 percent more than the national average, and the numbers of citizens on probation is so insanely high that it should make you worry! I have said before, that if they haven’t arrested you yet, they just haven’t gotten around to it!

The way the system works, almost assures indictment, and either a guilty plea or conviction. Sure, it is jurors who send people to jail or prison for long periods of time, but when the stats are as skewed as they are here, something is wrong!

Revamp the way the system works, and you might just get your jail! Otherwise, you can just keep tilting at windmills.

As a post script, let me say, that the next event that I suspect will occur, is the contriving of some jail related disaster to show people how wrong they are, and to buy sympathy for a jail project. Like: “See, we told you so!”…

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