Violent crime is down in Texas, but the number of women in jail is on the rise

"Many of these women are in jail for failure to pay fines to the court, showing up late to a court hearing, or a probation violation."

"Many of these women are in jail for failure to pay fines to the court, showing up late to a court hearing, or a probation violation."

From the Texas Standard:  "The Dallas Morning News conducted an investigation this summer about what happens to kids after a mother’s arrest. In the process, they stumbled on an interesting fact – more women are being jailed in Texas, even though arrests of women have dropped.

Investigative reporter Cary Aspinwall found that the number of women in county jails across Texas awaiting trial has increased about 50 percent since 2011.

“I think when we first told people that the volume of women in jails was going up, they assumed it was part of a crime wave,” she says. “But what we know, if you look at Department of Public Safety data and those crime stats that come out every year that are part of the FBI data, there’s actually been a decrease in most crime categories, in most violent crime categories.” Continue reading

Justice from Within: The Death Penalty and a New Vision for Criminal Justice through a Racial Justice Lens

Photo by Adam Jones, PhD

Photo by Adam Jones, PhD

By FATIMAH LOREN MUHAMMAD.  "While the death penalty is defended as a helpful response to murder victims’ families, in reality it marginalizes and often inflicts additional harm on certain groups through disparities in its application. Crime survivors of color, in particular, are adversely affected by the disparities, and they have been left out of policy debates about crime and punishment even though people of color are more likely than white people to be victims of serious violence. As a young nonprofit professional, I join a new generation of advocates pushing the broader criminal justice reform movement to approach its work through the lens of racial justice."  Continue reading

City Rep opposes city's participation in marijuana program

The forum to be held Sunday, December 3  at the downtown public library will discuss issues such as a First Chance program.  Scroll down to find all information related to forum.

Weeks after the El Paso city manager signed an agreement with the county to implement a program that waives criminal charges against some first-time offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana, a city representative is questioning whether it's prudent.
City Rep. Henry Rivera, a former El Paso police officer, is asking for a presentation on the First Chance Program during Tuesday's City Council meeting, and said he wants to publicly oppose it.
Rivera said the council and the public deserve to have the agreement explained to them even though the City Charter gives City Manager Tommy Gonzalez the power to enter into agreements with other organizations without council's approval.
“I just want an open presentation,” Rivera said, adding that he only learned about the agreement through an article on El Paso Times.  Continue reading
District Attorney Jaime Esparza presents the First Chance program to County Commissioners in October. The program was approved. (Photo: PHOTO BY MARIA CORTES GONZALEZ/EL PASO TIMES)

District Attorney Jaime Esparza presents the First Chance program to County Commissioners in October. The program was approved. (Photo: PHOTO BY MARIA CORTES GONZALEZ/EL PASO TIMES)

As U.S. repudiates war on drugs, finds innocent men on death row, states recognize 'lock 'em up' policies fail.

(Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

(Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

By James Alan Fox and Richard Moran:  "A new report from the University of Michigan's National Registry of Exonerations has proclaimed 2015 as a banner year for achieving justice in America. A total of 149 prisoners — including 58 convicted of homicide and five on death row — were released from custody based on exculpatory evidence or the recognition that the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial had been violated. Apparently, they were the victims of a system more interested in arrest, prosecution and incarceration than in justice."  Continue reading

New publication: Ciudad Juárez Saga of a Legendary Border City by Oscar J. Martínez

"Juárez is no ordinary city. Its history is exhilarating and tragic. Part of the state of Chihuahua and located on the border with the United States opposite El Paso, Texas, Juárez has often captured the world’s attention in dramatic fashion.

In Ciudad Juárez: Saga of a Legendary Border City, Oscar J. Martínez provides a historical overview of the economic and social evolution of this famous transnational urban center from the 1848 creation of the international boundary between Mexico and the United States to the present, emphasizing the city’s deep ties to the United States.

Martínez also explores major aspects of the social history of the city, including cross-border migration, urbanization, population growth, living standards, conditions among the city’s workers, crime, and the circumstances that led to the horrendous violence that catapulted Juárez to the top rung of the world’s most violent urban areas in the early twenty-first century.

In countless ways, the history of Juárez is the history of the entire Mexican northern frontier. Understanding how the city evolved provides a greater appreciation for the formidable challenges faced by Mexican fronterizos, and yields vital insights into the functioning of borderland regions around the world." 

Continue reading

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NAFTA exit would cause misery in El Paso

By Ann Saphir 

"EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - The jeans Estela Ortiz wears to work on casual Fridays are a last vestige of the job she held for 24 years at Levi Strauss, one of El Paso’s top employers before the North American Free Trade Agreement clobbered the town’s textile industry.

The 1994 trade pact helped eliminate the jobs of Ortiz and thousands of others in the West Texas border town, as manufacturing plants in the area left for Mexico and elsewhere, and firms boosted imports.    

But Ortiz, like many others in El Paso, has come to terms with the changes. Now, as the administration of President Donald Trump, a Republican, works to renegotiate or scrap the trade deal, what worries many is what kind of economic havoc eliminating NAFTA could bring."  Continue reading

Photo thanks to Reuters

Photo thanks to Reuters

What human dignity has to do with criminal justice reform

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By David Closson

"On April 10, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed into law comprehensive criminal justice reform, making it easier for former inmates to obtain employment and allowing prisoners to work for private companies while completing their sentences. The sweeping measures were recommended by Bevin’s Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council.

In a break from hyper partisan gridlock, the law received overwhelmingly bipartisan support from Kentucky lawmakers (the law was adopted by the Senate 36-0 and the House 85-9), and was backed by organizations with wide-ranging ideological viewpoints including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), U.S. Justice Action Network, and Christian ministries.

Key aspects of the new law include:

1. It removes the government restriction on obtaining professional licensure due to a prior criminal conviction.

Previously, felons, regardless of their offense, were barred from applying for occupational licenses. Similar to most states, Kentucky law requires licensure for the majority of jobs ranging from hairdressers, barbers, bus drivers, working in construction, and surveying property. By removing the barrier to licensing and returning decision-making power to licensure boards, the new law provides former inmates access to thousands of jobs that require a license. While licensure boards retain the power to deny licenses based on qualifications, criminal conviction alone no longer automatically precludes someone from obtaining a license."  Continue reading

Next Forum: "Our Broken Criminal Justice System and the Urgency to Fix It"

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Sunday December 3 at 2:30 pm

El Paso Public Library, 501 N. Oregon

Featuring Bruce Ponder, retired attorney with many years in the Public Defenders Office

Beatriz Vera, social worker and educator

More than 25 years of increasing penalties, skyrocketing jail and prison populations, greater inmate overcrowding, rising older and sicker inmate populations, increasingly stringent parole policies, and recurring budget problems have created a major crisis in our border communities and throughout the country.  Minorities have been particularly affected by this deplorable situation.  The time is overdue for making needed changes.

Redefining the "quality of life" in El Paso, our home

Photo thanks to Alejandra Matos/Borderzine.com

Photo thanks to Alejandra Matos/Borderzine.com

Op-ed in El Paso Times, October 29, 2017. 

Quality of life…how do we define it?
Is it major-cost venues for minor league sports teams? Boutique bars and expensive foodie joints on every corner? Gargantuan arenas dominating the skyline? Is it something found only in downtown?
Or is it freedom from city leaders who tax us into oblivion while they fund their pet projects?  
Could it have more to do with enjoying our heritage than sacrificing our money?  Read more

States use a troubling 'tool' to roll back minimum wage gains

Image thanks to The Christian Science Monitor

Image thanks to The Christian Science Monitor

By:  JoEllen Chernow, director of economic justice, Center for Popular Democracy.    "At the beginning of this year, around 4.4 million workers across America received modest raises as cities and states enacted new laws aimed at giving hourly workers living wages.

The country's lowest-paid workers saw increases in their paychecks in 19 states, with the highest new minimum wages this year in Massachusetts and Washington at $11 per hour. In coming years, New York and California will bump up their minimum wages to $15.

But in some areas of the country, local wage laws are meeting with resistance from state governments.

Fast food workers in St. Louis received their first raise in years in May, only to have it stolen a few months later. Imagine one day bringing home $10 an hour and the next falling back to their old wage of $7.70.

The Missouri state legislature passed a law to cap the minimum wage across the state at $7.70 an hour, rolling back higher wages approved by local governments in St. Louis and Kansas City. This is less than one third of the living wage of $26.44 per hour in St. Louis, which is what a family of four needs to live adequately in the city."  Read More

The Godfather of Mexican Manufacturing Couldn’t Care Less About Donald Trump

Jaime Bermúdez. Photo thanks to Bloomberg Businessweek.  Jaime Bermúdez has been building factories in Juárez since 1967. They do business all over the world, Nafta or no Nafta.

Jaime Bermúdez. Photo thanks to Bloomberg Businessweek.  Jaime Bermúdez has been building factories in Juárez since 1967. They do business all over the world, Nafta or no Nafta.

By Lauren Etter.  "In Ciudad Juárez, along the U.S.-Mexico border at the foot of the Sierra Madre, a dark blue Range Rover winds through the empire built by Jaime Bermúdez Cuarón. The vehicle is carrying two of the 94-year-old real estate magnate’s sons and two of his adult grandchildren; bodyguards follow in two cars. Juárez isn’t besieged by drug cartel violence quite like it was a decade ago, but the elite are still targets. And the Bermúdezes, who’ve amassed a fortune establishing Mexico’s central role in the rise of globalization, are most definitely elite.

The caravan passes hulking factories, one after another on the creosote-and-cactus-lined streets. Each has its own concrete or iron enclosure and bears a company name on the side—Eagle Ottawa, Capcom, Copper Dots, Microcast, Filtertek—like individual fiefdoms flying their coats of arms. These are the mostly invisible weavers, processors, builders, molders, and sorters that power the global economy. They’re the brands behind the brands. The guts inside the things. These factories are churning out leather seats, light-emitting diodes, heart stents, plastic ice buckets, smartphone screens, steering shafts. Most of the pieces will be shipped on, sometimes crossing several borders and multiple plant floors, before becoming part of a finished consumer product."  Continue reading

Op-Ed from the El Paso Herald Post: County Commissioner David Stout – …They Lied!

Photo thanks to KTSM

Photo thanks to KTSM

By Andra Litton

"While the fight with the city over Duranguito has been going on for quite a while, it is just now, with the dramatic actions taken and the media focused on the issue, that many people are giving it some thought.

Unfortunately the City, whose plan is to demolish the neighborhood and build a sports arena, has purposely tried to confuse the public.  How much misinformation and lack of transparency must we endure from City officials before we say, “!Basta!”?"  Read More

City has options to dragging out arena fight

Op-ed by Carmen E. Rodriguez in the El Paso Times  

"Our City Council voted to appeal the recent court decision related to the 2012 bond project, citing the need for clarity. This reasoning makes little sense.

Under the court’s ruling, the city could simply focus on designing and constructing a performing arts center and refrain from expending any bond funds to accommodate sports. The design of other performing arts centers could provide guidance."  Read More

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City continues to mislead on Duranguito: José Rodríguez op-ed in EP Times

I am not opposed to building a sports arena or a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment center in the Downtown vicinity. I do object to building such a facility if it requires destroying El Paso's first neighborhood.
However, the larger, more concerning issue is the process and manner in which the city has acted. The pattern is clear: devising ambiguous language for the bond ordinance; razing City Hall without seeking public input; developing a Downtown plan without meaningful public input; and allowing the surreptitious bulldozing of historic buildings in Duranguito. 
It is important that the public understand that a Travis County district court — after careful review of the bond ordinance language and the city's evidence — found a sports arena was not what the voters approved to be built in the 2012 election. The city continues to obscure this part of the court's finding.
It is irresponsible for the city to continue to claim that El Pasoans approved a Downtown sports arena. We voted for a quality of life bond that included library improvements, a children’s museum, a Hispanic Cultural Center, and a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility.  Read More