- Most embrace some reforms in Court of Criminal Appeals races.
Regardless of party, most of the candidates for the state's highest criminal court say they want to see more cases involving drug addiction and mental illness moved out of the criminal justice system.
. . . Keasler and Meyers – a conservative and progressive, respectively, and two of the longest-serving judges on the court – said people dealing with drug addiction and mental illness don't belong in the criminal justice system. Walker said he's faced the issue with his clients.
"I see people all the time – I've had several cases recently where my clients are competent to stand trial, but they're not really capable of keeping up with probation. They honestly can't," Walker said. "And they need a very intensive type of probation with a whole lot of help. The system can't just put those kind of people out on the street and expect them to show up when they're supposed to show up and do all the programs they're supposed to do without some very intensive help."
Burns, who has presided over a diversion program for more than four years, said helping these offenders instead of punishing them works out in the long run.
"When it comes to drug offenses, I'm a big believer in diversionary programs," Burns said. "I really think that treatment works much better than incarceration because if you don't treat people who have drug problems, they're going to fail on probation and then they're going to end up in prison. It really starts a cycle of failure and criminality."
- Two school districts accused of violating new truancy law.
Two Texas school districts are not following a new law designed to reduce the number of students who end up in truancy courts, an alliance of advocacy groups claimed on Monday.
In complaints filed with the Texas Education Agency, Disability Rights Texas, Texas Appleseed and the National Center for Youth Law accused the El Paso and Mesquite independent school districts of violating provisions of House Bill 2398, a measure designed to decriminalize multiple absences and encourage schools to intervene before court action is taken.
Under the new law, school districts are no longer able to send students with three unexcused absences within a four-week period to truancy courts. School officials must instead notify parents of the absences and warn them of the penalties, which include a fine or loss of driving privileges if the student acquires more absences. A criminal complaint against the parents may eventually be filed as well.
The bill also requires public schools to implement truancy prevention programs and develop new methods of punishing students are punished after multiple absences. It also mandates that parents and educators have face-to-face meetings, and that students be enrolled in a truancy prevention program.