News Roundup: Instead Of Mandating Prison Temperature Standards, A House Bill Will Study The Idea

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelApril 19, 2019 1:33 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas House members have reworked a bill that would have required all state-run prisons and jails be kept between 65 and 85 degrees.

About three-quarters of state facilities have no air-conditioning in most inmate housing areas. Temperatures can soar above 100 degrees in the summer, and in recent years a federal judge ruled the heat in one Texas prison amounted to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

The Dallas Morning News reports the latest version of the bill requires a study to see how much it would cost to install air-conditioning.

House Corrections Committee Chair James White described the updated measure during a hearing Thursday.

“There is a committee sub, the committee sub just asks the department to get a contracting consultant to look at the issue of the temperature of these buildings and get back with us in several months from now,” White said.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has previously estimated it would cost over $1 billion to cool its facilities. The bill’s author, State Rep. Terry Canales has criticized that figure as “grossly inflated.”

The ongoing tug-of-war between state and local officials is again front and center in Texas politics. Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are asking a district attorney to reconsider proposed criminal justice reforms.

Dallas County DA John Creuzot outlined the new policies just last week.

They includes not prosecuting people for theft of personal items worth less than $750, such as food or diapers.

“The question is if we put them in jail, are they going to make restitution? You know what the answer is: ‘No!’ So what we’ve done is burned up taxpayer money for a hungry person or a needy person under this fake premise that we’re going to get the money back and it doesn’t happen,” Creuzot said.

That’s one of the policy changes Abbott and Paxton highlight in their letter. And they say Creuzot is going too far. They write “Reform is one thing. Actions that abandon the rule of law and that could promote lawlessness are altogether different.”

The pair urge Creuzot to reconsider his position and uphold the state laws he is charged to enforce. For his part, Creuzot has described the proposed reforms as an effort to end mass incarceration.

Two NFL players visited the Rio Grande Valley this week to see first-hand what was happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new report from Texas Public Radio.

Demario Davis of the New Orleans Saints and John Norman of the Washington Redskins made the trip. One of the sites they visited was a Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen. It’s where some migrants go after being released from custody. There, they can shower, eat, and pick up supplies before heading to their final destination, where they’ll await their day in immigration court.

Davis told Texas Public Radio he and Norman aren’t looking at the situation from a political standpoint. Rather, he described it as question of what’s right versus what’s wrong.

“We just put ourselves in the people’s shoes,” Davis says. “But we haven’t just been here, we also went to Flint and a lot of the same oppression that’s happening here is happening in Flint. It’s sad, but that’s what’s happening to people who don’t have wealth and don’t have power to speak out for themselves. Their voices get silenced.”

Davis and Norman also stopped at the National Butterfly Center. The professional football players also crossed into Mexico to provide some assistance to migrant families waiting to claim asylum.