"Fire safety is one of the things that is so fundamental for prison officials," said Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer in criminal justice at University of Texas at Austin. "You’ve got a trapped population with no ability to get them out quickly or easily."
Newsworthy by Faculty Member
Newsworthy for Deitch, Michele
Cain was appointed in 2018 by Gov. Greg Abbott and was tasked with resolving staffing and violence issues that have plagued the org for more than a decade. But like her predecessors she saw mixed results. "Camille Cain was deeply invested in trying to reform the agency and turn it into a trauma-informed environment for youth in a way that met their needs," said Michele Deitch, director of the Jail and Prison Innovation Lab at UT-Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs.
President Biden Taps Nationally Renowned Criminal Justice Researcher Nancy La Vigne to Lead National Institute of Justice
LBJ School alumna Nancy La Vigne ('91), was appointed by President Biden as the director of the National Institute of Justice, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Michele Deitch, a criminal justice professor at the University of Texas Law School, said the temperatures inside these prisons can reach triple digits during the summer months and put inmates like Hernandez at risk of a stroke and other heat-related illnesses. "The temperatures can exceed anything that any of us on the outside have ever experienced," she said. "We're routinely in excess of 110, 120, 130 degrees, and metal furniture becomes too hot to touch."
"There's no more fundamental obligation that jails have than to keep the people inside them safe and alive," said Michele Deitch, a distinguished senior lecturer who focuses on criminal justice policy issues and deaths in custody at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs. "And if we're not tracking what's happening to the people in there, we don't know what's going on inside those jails."
"This case should be a wake-up call for officials — not just in Texas but all over the U.S. — to realize that many routine conditions of confinement in our nation's prisons do not measure up to international human rights standards," said Michele Deitch, a University of Texas at Austin senior lecturer who served as an expert witness in the case. "Some of these conditions are really out of step with what are considered acceptable practices in other Western nations."
Arizona's privatized prison health care has been failing for years. A new court case could change that
Michele Deitch, a prison policy lecturer at the University of Texas, and others believe there may be an incentive to keep staffing and care at or below minimum. "There are questions about whether private health care [is] capable of providing appropriate services, given that the profit motive is going to interfere with the provision of care," said Deitch. "They have a built-in incentive to limit the treatment that's provided."
"Story after story emerging from juvenile systems reveal that agencies around the country don't have a good handle on how to manage their most challenging youth," said Michele Deitch, a juvenile justice expert at The University of Texas at Austin. "They're just throwing up their hands and saying, 'We've exhausted our options. We just don't know what to do.'"
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has lost 78 staff and had over 20,000 employee infections between the onset of the pandemic and Jan. 31, 2022, according to a new report from the Prison and Jail Innovation Lab at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. The report also shows that Texas has the highest rate of infection of all the country's largest prison systems.
New criminal justice policy lab to focus on correctional oversight and improved conditions in prisons and jails nationwide
The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin has established a new national policy resource center working to ensure the safe and humane treatment of people in custody and cultivate the next generation of justice policy leaders. The Prison and Jail Innovation Lab (PJIL) serves as a bridge between academic research, practical experience and policy on pressing matters related to independent correctional oversight and conditions of confinement.
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