Senate Committee on Criminal Justice - 80th R.S. (2007)
- Determine how private prisons are complying with state laws and how cost, safety, living conditions and rehabilitative services at private prisons compare with state-run facilities. Include an assessment of the staff turnover rates and compensation of private contractors when compared with state-operated facilities, and of the contract bidding processes used by the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
- Monitor the implementation of SB 103 80th R.S., and the continuing reforms to the Texas Youth Commission and the juvenile criminal justice system. Identify barriers to effective implementation and provide recommendations to ensure that the goals of this legislation are achieved. Provide recommendations relating to best practices and identify needed additional treatment programs for juvenile sex offenders.
- Study the impact of laws designed to reduce illegal drug use and make recommendations for reducing access to illegal drugs and for developing best practices for preventative programs, focusing on drugs targeted for the younger population, such as cheese heroin. Assess the impact of limiting access to pseudoephedrine, including the impact restrictions have had on illegal manufacturers' methods for producing methamphetamine.
- Monitor the implementation of the new and expanded programs provided to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) within the Fiscal Year 2008 and 2009 budget, and identify their impact on the criminal justice populations. Study security issues within TDCJ, including staffing issues, use of lock down procedures, the control and containment of infectious diseases and the introduction and control of contraband within the institutions. Review the use of career ladders for employees of TDCJ and issues surrounding the retention of professional corrections staff. Study the issues of independent oversight of TDCJ, including the use and effectiveness of the TDCJ ombudsman system. Provide recommendations for the reduction or elimination of barriers to an effective corrections system.
Study and make recommendations for reducing the number of law enforcement officer deaths in the line of duty. This study should include:
- an assessment of the types of calls and assignments that put law enforcement officers most at risk;
- the geographic regions of the state that suffer the most deaths;
- the agencies experiencing the highest rate of deaths in the line of duty;
- the time in an officer's career, and the officer's age that he or she is most susceptible to death in the line of duty; and
- the times of year, month, and day that are most dangerous.
- Study the issue of criminal asset seizure and the use of seized and forfeiture funds by district attorneys and law enforcement agencies. Review the oversight of these matters by the Texas Attorney General and provide recommendations to improve the dissemination of information concerning these funds. Ensure that these funds have the appropriate accountability and fiscal controls required for public funds.
- Study the system of deferred adjudication in Texas courts and make recommendations for resolving any problems and reducing the potential for release of dangerous criminals.
- Study and recommend best practices for reducing re-victimization of child abuse victims associated with delay in resolution of criminal cases. Recommend options for reducing the time lapse between child victimization and criminal hearings.
- Review the processes for re-entry of criminal offenders into communities. Identify barriers to the successful return to law-abiding behavior, including the absence of employment opportunities created by restriction on obtaining certain state occupational licenses. Provide recommendations for improvements to our current statutes governing this matter.
- Study whether Articles 36.09 (relating to trying multiple defendants from the same transaction either separately or jointly) and 36.10 (relating to severing defendants that show prejudice from a joint trial) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provide sufficient safeguards to ensure fair and reliable trial results in capital cases with multiple defendants. Determine whether the articles provide trial judges with sufficient instruction regarding joinder or severance of defendants and, if not, make recommendations to improve procedures.
- Study the relationship between the public mental health system and the criminal justice and civil courts systems, including the identification and sharing of information regarding mentally ill offenders, including minors, among criminal justice and mental health agencies, the courts, state hospitals, and the Veterans Administration. Study how current confidentiality laws impact the exchange of information among groups described above. Study the sentencing of mentally ill offenders compared to non-mentally ill offenders, including minors, and the affect that has on statewide prison capacity and on the health care provided to mentally ill offenders. (Joint Charge with Senate State Affairs Committee)
- Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Criminal Justice Committee, 80th R.S., and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation. Specifically, report on the implementation of SB 909 80th R.S., the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Sunset legislation, including provisions relating to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and monitor implementation of the new laws relating to copper theft (SB 1154 80th R.S., HB 1766 80th R.S., and HB 1767 80th R.S.).
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