Thursday, February 11, 2010

Farouk Shami More Progressive on Criminal Justice Than Bill White

Former Texas Governor Mark White has said he supports a moratorium on executions, but the Texas Observer asked Democratic gubernatorial nominee candidate Bill White (no relation to Mark) and Bill said he does not support a moratorium. We will try to meet with him to explain why Texas needs a moratorium. The Texas Democratic Party endorsed a moratorium in the party platform in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

A moratorium is the best way to ensure that Texas does not execute an innocent person and that reforms are enacted to make sure that an innocent person is never again executed in Texas. If Texas had enacted a moratorium in 2003, then Todd Willingham would not have been executed in 2004.

The Observer did not ask Democratic gubernatorial nominee candidate Farouk Shami for his opinion on a moratorium, but Shami's website says that he does support a moratorium.

From the Texas Observer:
I’m sure you’re very familiar with the dustup last fall over the Forensic Science Commission. Do you believe that Gov. Perry was engaging in a cover-up when he moved to replace commission members right before they were starting hearings on whether Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongly executed? It certainly looks wrong, and there’s something inconsistent with a governor who now says that he’ll defer to experts on his plans to greatly expand the governor’s mansion and destroy its historical integrity, while at the same time saying that he won’t defer to experts on issues such as forensic science.

Given the information the governor had about questionable forensics that convicted Willingham, should he have halted the execution before he went forward? I haven’t looked at all the details on that case, but if I was governor I would appoint people to boards involving pardon and paroles, and the Forensic Science Commission, who would represent the values of this state—and in the case of forensic science, who are experts. And I would rely on the judgment of those people.

Do you support the death penalty? Yes.

Do you support a moratorium on executions, as former Gov. Mark White has suggested, until we can ensure that Texas is not executing innocent people? No. I think it ought to depend on a case-by-case basis and not be a moratorium across the board.

How would you handle your review of these cases differently from what Gov. Perry has done? Where there is a question about the forensic science, I would listen to the scientists.
Farouk Shami's website says that he does support a moratorium.

FaroukFarouk Shami understands that a moratorium is the best way to ensure that Texas does not execute an innocent person and can enact reforms to protect innocent people from being executed, "If elected Governor, Farouk Shami would place a moratorium on the death penalty to evaluate these issues and convene a panel of experts to make recommendations on how to reform the death penalty to make it truly fair, if it can indeed be reformed."

Farouk Shami has also posted his position on major criminal justice issues, him the most progressive gubernatorial candidate on criminal justice.

A Comprehensive Approach to Fix the System

The criminal justice system in Texas is broken. The approach we’ve taken has ignored rehabilitation and instead focuses solely on retribution. We currently spend almost $3 billion dollars a year on criminal justice, up from almost $800 million in 1990. This approach has given Texas a 40 percent higher incarceration rate than the country as a whole, yet we still have a 21 percent higher crime rate than the country as a whole. Our approach is clearly costing us too much money for too little result.

We need a comprehensive plan that seriously evaluates how we can reduce recidivism, reduce costs, and focus our attention on cracking down on criminals the current system isn’t able to catch.

Reform Our Prison System

We cannot continue to treat our prisons as warehouses designed to store inmates. We must implement a new approach, particularly amongst non violent offenders, that instead treats them as places where people can go in as a criminal and emerge as a productive member of society.

Educate Inmates

Farouk Shami will put forth a policy that rewards all non violent offenders with time off of their sentence for completing a GED, associates degree, bachelor’s degree, and even a graduate degree. Study after study has proven that recidivism rates drop when inmates are educated.

Workforce Training for Inmates

Many inmates in prison have no marketable skills. Learning a trade allows the inmates to get a job after leaving prison and gives them the prospect of a good future. To that end, Farouk Shami will put Vocational/Technical schools in our prisons to teach inmates skills. Furthermore, with agriculture our state’s second biggest industry, we will create prison farms where we can teach inmates how to grow food and raise cattle. The state would compensate the prisoners for working on the farm at a rate of $2 an hour, which will be set aside in an account for them to use after leaving prison. This will train a workforce for our agriculture industry while giving inmates a real chance to put aside money to make a life for themselves after leaving prison. The food grown on these farms can be used in prisons, schools, hospitals and other government facilities, creating a cost savings that will subsidize the program.

Treat Mental Illness

Finally, mental illness is present in an extremely high percentage of the prison population. Some researchers cite a number as high as 37% of inmates suffer from a severe mental illness. They cannot become productive members of society until they have received treatment for their illness and have a plan for continuation of treatment upon leaving prison.

Common Sense Drug Laws

Drug laws in Texas are not working. We are incarcerating far too many people for using drugs and not treating them for their addictions. We need to redirect drug users to treatment facilities that can treat their illness verses just tossing them into the general prison population. That way, we can focus on the real problem of getting drug dealers and distributors in prison and not the end user.

Crackdown on Drug Trafficking Gangs

Highly organized gangs are tracking drugs from Mexico into the United States and they are using Texas as a major base of operations. We need to immediately put an end to checking immigration status of undocumented workers and instead work with the federal government to grant legal status to those undocumented workers that turn over the gang members living in their community. Breaking up these gangs is our state’s top criminal justice priority.

A Statewide Real Time Crime Center

Highly organized criminal groups, from drug smuggling gangs to identity theft rings, are operating in our state. We need a centralized command center that integrates information from every law enforcement agency in the state to track potential activities of these groups and help break them up. This command center would have the ability to look beyond a single municipality and would employ analysts who can see patterns that are otherwise ignored. Utilizing this data, we could significantly crack down on these groups.

Seriously Evaluate the Use of the Death Penalty

The death penalty, as it is currently implemented, has a number of serious problems. The most important of these problems is the potential that an innocent person could be put to death. We must absolutely ensure, at every stage of appeal, potentially exculpatory evidence, particularly forensic and DNA evidence, is admissible and taken very seriously. We must expand the power of the Governor’s office to act as a check on the judicial system and convert the sentence to life in prison with no chance of parole. Another problem with the death penalty as it currently is used in Texas is the racial bias in its sentencing. A black or Hispanic male is far more likely to receive the death penalty than a white male is for committing the same crime. If elected Governor, Farouk Shami would place a moratorium on the death penalty to evaluate these issues and convene a panel of experts to make recommendations on how to reform the death penalty to make it truly fair, if it can indeed be reformed.

Crackdown on White Collar Crime

For far too long, our state has ignored white collar crime and has not investigated it until it is far too late. Every time we see a corporate scam like Enron or a R. Allen Stanford ponzi scheme, we are reminded that politicians turn a blind eye to white collar crime until it’s far too late because the individuals perpetrating these crimes are also campaign donors. Since Farouk Shami is not accepting any money from any special interest or lobbyists and is largely self-funded, politics as usual are over. As Governor, Farouk will create a special investigative taskforce, with forensic accountants, whose sole job will be investigating corporations doing business in Texas and individuals conducting these crimes.

Strengthen Enforcement of Identity Theft Laws and Computer Crime Laws

Identity theft costs individuals millions of dollars in Texas each year and countless hours to repair their credit history. Computer hacking not only costs millions of dollars every year, but it threatens our state’s infrastructure and security. Farouk Shami will use his statewide real time crime center to fight identity theft as it is happening and capture the perpetrators wherever in Texas they reside. The center will also have trained computer security experts that will fight the hackers and help bring them to justice. This center will be able to eliminate jurisdictional issues and will have the qualified experts local law enforcement agencies simply cannot afford to keep on staff.

Reform the Texas Youth Commission

The Texas Youth Commission is out of control. Allegations of sexual abuse and mismanagement have completely eliminated any credibility it once had. As Governor, Farouk Shami will personally lead a taskforce that will fight corruption and completely change the culture of the TYC.

More importantly, Farouk Shami will refocus the TYC on helping these troubled youth reform their lives so they can receive a quality education, learn a trade and ultimately become productive members of society. If we can turn around these youth now, we won’t see them later on in our prison system.

No comments: