Chron proposes remedial education as solution to prison crowding

The Chronicle weighed in today with a typical soft-on-crime editorial:

Texas prisons are filling up faster than state officials had estimated, with more than 150,000 inmates behind bars and capacity only a whisker away from a maximum 97.5 percent of beds filled. Because of the crunch, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials are asking legislators to make an emergency appropriation of $62 million to provide more inmate housing, including contracting for space in county jails. With education funding reform and a revamping of the child and adult protective services system high on the legislative agenda, it's money lawmakers simply do not have.

It's also a crisis that didn't need to happen. Of the 77,000 offenders entering state prison in fiscal 2004, nearly half were incarcerated, not because they committed a new crime, but because of parole or probation violations. Such technical violations include missing a mandated meeting with supervisory officers.


The system should work to make communities safer. Instead, it sets up arbitrary obstacles that block petty criminals' re-entry into productive society, all at an unduly high price to law-abiding taxpayers. Returning former offenders to a cell for minor technical violations wastes money that could be better spent on real anticrime solutions, such as substance-abuse treatment and remedial education.

Remedial education as a real anticrime solution? Ah, it's like a '70s progressive flashback.

As Owen Courreges has pointed out before, parole is a privilege. Holding parolees responsible for meeting the obligations of being granted that privilege is a component of ensuring they are responsible enough to return to society. If they demonstrate they are not, the privilege can be revoked.

As for those "technicalities" the Chronicle editors like to dismiss, it's not always as trivial as they'd like readers to believe. Take this story that ran in Pittsburgh Post Gazette earlier this week:

Throughout October, November and December, "Meghan Thomas" spent a lot of time in Internet chatrooms frequented by children, saying she was an 11-year-old girl in Pittsburgh.

She used the screen name "meghan15222" -- the number was her ZIP code. She showed off a picture of herself in a modeling competition and said her birthdate was Dec. 14, 1994.

At least the Dec. 14 part was authentic.

But the person chatting in those rooms was actually born on that date in 1947.

"Meghan Thomas" was really Roger Millspaugh, 57, a convicted child rapist from Lawrenceville just released from prison who had been accessing the Internet dozens of times from the library at Duquesne University.

The FBI suspects he was trolling for potential victims.

"It appears that Millspaugh is representing himself as an 11-year-old juvenile female in the Pittsburgh area, and is making an effort to access several different online communities, forums and chat rooms with a concentration on making contacts with juveniles and young children," wrote FBI Agent Eric Fiterman in a search warrant affidavit.

Millspaugh's brief stint of freedom is over, for now.

Last week a federal judge sent him back to prison for two more years for violating his probation on a previous child pornography conviction.


Millspaugh isn't in jail for [possessing various incriminating] materials, however, but for failing to check in with authorities. After his release in September, he was supposed to report to federal probation officer Wendy Brown every week.

He didn't, and Chief U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose gave him two more years behind bars, the maximum under the law.

This is the sort of "technical" violation that the Chronicle editors urge us to ignore, in favor of "remedial education."

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 01/27/05 11:58 PM | Print |

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