are concerned, usually involving a 24-hcSur telephone watch and the cooperation of other community service agencies, are now operating in the major metropolitan centers. 4 6 There is such a service in Austin and another in Corpus Christi. There must be around a thousand or more suicides in the state each year. Citizens who care to help prevent them can check in their cities to find out whether there is a center and if not to open one. The State Health Department could be funded modestly to encourage the formation of local centers in Texas and to report back to the legislature on the results. Order The legislators can be counted upon in the present climate to close any loopholes they might see in the laws against criminals. Gov. Preston Smith recently commended North Central Texas authorities for the successful operation of their regional police academy. The state should fund a series of such academies, or a statewide police academy, to improve the training of police. The Texas Rangers ought to be abolished as an outfit and the Rangers transferred into the Department of Public Safety’s corps of officers. The Rangers are, no doubt, a tourist attraction, but they serve no proper distinctive function, and they have come, for various reasons, many of them legitimate, to symbolize the oppression of Mexican-Americans and, more recently, farm workers. Sen. Ralph Yarborough asked reporters, “What would you think of the FBI if we had them patrolling a watermelon patch in a labor dispute?” This is a good question, and the answer is abolish the Rangers. The federal gun control law is inadequate and controls only guns shipped in interstate commerce. The state should outlaw the private ownership of pistols entirely. They are killer guns. Merely owning one should be made an offense. The state should also require the registration of all rifles. Hunters shouldn’t mind, and those who do shouldn’t be listened to. THE ACCUSATIONS against Gatesville reform school on the charge of beatings and abuse of the boys there are convincing. The guards should be paid at least a third again what they now receive. The Legislature should obtain the services of a nationally recognized evaluation service to look into the system’s strengths and weaknesses. The House Appropriations Committee will try to sell the Legislature on a new boys’ reform school at Giddings, in the district of the House speaker, Gus Mutscher, who is said to wish to run for Congress. The location of a new reform school in accordance with political considerations might be all right if it was not so wrong in principle. The only people they can get at Gatesville for guards at the salaries they pay are usually farm hands. These people tend to be old-fashioned disciplinarians with some or a lot of race prejudice, and they do not know much about such subjects as sociology, psychology, and other nations and cultures. Locate a new school in a big city such as Houston, and the guards can be young social workers, college students in the medical schools and the social sciences, and other such people who will work for small salaries while finishing their studies. This is better for the boys. Governor Smith has said he understands that new admissions to Texas Youth Council schools for delinquents could be decreased 25% if good probation services were established in local communities. 54 Dedicated efforts of Rep., now Sen. Don Kennard, Fort Worth, and a few others led to the establishment and gradual expansion of the statewide juvenile probation system. The TYC proposes only four more people for the 40-member state staff; it should be doubled. In addition, the state should offer to help fund local juvenile probation programs. And Law Few Texans realize that within a year or two, Texas lawyers and the Legislature will be deciding how to revise the whole criminal law of the state. The procedural criminal law was recodified in 1965. Now it’s the substance that is being totally reconsidered. This means that citizens have a present occasion to make themselves heard on everything from the fairness of sentences for specific crimes to the obsolescence of the sex laws. The range of issues is kaleidescopic, and now is none too soon to anticipate them. In 1962 the American Law Institute published, after ten years’ work, a model penal code. Responding, the State Bar of Texas in 1965 appointed a special committee to reform the substance of the Texas criminal code. Page Keeton, dean of the University of Texas law school, is the chairman. By next year, a proposed model penal code will be ready. If adopted by the Bar, it will be presented .to the Legislature in 1971. The present Texas penal code was enacted 112 years ago, in 1856, and has not been revised overall since then. In 1856 the state contained fewer than half a million people, of whom only one out of 25 lived in cities and towns. Darwin’s Origin of the Species, the first version of Marx’s Das Kapital, and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty were three years in the future. Another half century would pass before Freud began shaking up the world with his theories of the inner life. “Since 1856,” says Seth Searcy, senior supervisor of the penal code project for the Texas Legislative Council \(which is providing only technical assistance for the our society at large and, well, just in our ways of looking at things. Unhappily, our code has not kept up. There have been about ten changes a legislative session, but it’s a patchwork. Overall, there’s a lack of rationality in sentencing, treatment of offenders, classification of offenders well, it simply bears the whips and scorns of time and the lack of any coherent and comprehensive revision.” 4 7 LAVOID piecemeal attacks and give people the whole revision at one time, specific changes already approved by the State Bar committee are not being made public. However, this much is already known: “A fresh appraisal of what should be classed as crime” is regarded by the committee as timely. The committee “is reexamining the entire fabric of Texas penal law.” Lawyers are submitting reports on different topics in the criminal law; many of these reports have been approved. 4 8 The committee is using four carefully defined terms “intentionally,” “knowingly,” “recklessly,” and “negligently” in place of more than three score different words and phrases describing culpable mental states. A new offense classification system, tentatively approved, would divide all offenses into four degrees of felonies and three grades of misdemeanors, with each category assigned a minimum-maximum imprisonment range. Anyone sentenced within a given category would have to serve the minimum sentence for it before becoming eligible for parole. A “persistent and dangerous offender” concept in the proposed new code would tighten the effort to identify and isolate such persons for long periods of time. The concept appears to be focused on offenders who are likely to continue to inflict serious bodily injury or are connected with organized crime. Sentencing by judges will be recommended, but in the case of capital punishment, jury sentencing will be recommended. This is a significant clue to the committee’s attitude on capital punishment, because it is the present state of the law that jurors cannot be disqualified for conscientious scruples against the death penalty. The committee has tentatively approved work on a large number of substantive crimes, making grossly negligent homicide a felony of the fourth degree, including abortion under the title on offenses against the family, continuing prostitution as an offense against public order and decency. The committee will no doubt be challenged, if it has not already been, to bring scientific information and rationality to bear on the laws of narcotics and drugs, March 7, 1969 3
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.