Texas Inmates Have Donated Over $50K To Harvey Relief

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelOctober 11, 2017 12:04 pm

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

Almost 7,000 Texas inmates have donated over $53,000 to Hurricane Harvey relief. And to be honest, I didn’t even know inmates could make donations until I saw Brandi Grissom’s story in the Dallas Morning News.

“I didn’t know that was possible either until I learned it yesterday from the Department of Criminal Justice…so what happens is that inmates can choose to donate funds from their commissary accounts,” Grissom says.

Commissary accounts are typically small funds that inmates can use to buy things like paper, pencils, and food they can’t get in the chow halls.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice says the average donation inmates made was about $8, but some contributed as much as $100-$200.

And it turns out this isn’t the first time Texas prisoners have made donations after a disaster.

“Actually the TDCJ spokesman told me that this started back in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana,” Grissom says “and a number of inmates approached wardens and other prison officials and said they wanted some way to help out and they actually wanted to give money. And so, the prison system found that they could donate to the Red Cross and they could use their commissary funds to do that.”

Inmates also donated to the victims of Hurricane Rita, the same year as Katrina.

Wednesday, a federal judge in San Francisco will consider whether an undocumented immigrant has a constitutional right to an abortion.

As Trey Shaar from KUT News in Austin reports, the Texas attorney general says she doesn’t have that right.

Attorney General Ken Paxton wants abortion denied to a 17-year-old immigrant in federal custody. She is in a shelter in Brownsville after crossing the border without her parents. Paxton has filed a friend of the court brief with a U.S. District Court. His office calls it a defense of the government’s right to refuse access to abortion services to a non-citizen with no substantial tie to the United States. The brief acknowledges that one need not be a citizen to have constitutional rights, but cites precedent that one must have substantial ties to this country. Paxton also argues that if the plaintiff were granted an abortion, the ruling would establish a right to abortion for anyone who enters the U.S. legally or not. And he argues more would follow, making Texas was Paxton calls, ‘a sanctuary state for abortions.’

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently received a surprising piece of mail. A visitor to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area near Fredericksburg sent back a rock they had taken from the park.

Stephanie Garcia is a spokesperson for the department. She says the visitor, who identified herself as Maria, also included a brief note.

“She really just said that she was going to return the rock to its owner because she said she had nothing but bad luck since she took it and just apologized,” Garcia says.

Garcia adds that Enchanted Rock is a unique site in the state park system of Texas; known for the myths and legends surrounding it.