Dallas County Will Not Ban In-Person Visits for Inmates After All

Andreas Praefcke
Still open for visits.

Dallas County commissioners are asking for new bids on a controversial contract for the management of visitation and phone services to jail inmates, after County Judge Clay Jenkins and inmate advocates objected to a proposal that would have ended face-to-face visits while letting the county profit off families visiting their jailed loved one via video.

The original version of the contract with Securus, a local technology company, would have obligated the county to cut off in-person visits to promote remote video visits, from which both Securus and the county would reap payments.

Jenkins led the fight against the contract's approval, telling supporters in an email that "video and phone companies hook elected leaders to the sugar of 'commissions' the contracted company share with local government while socking the cost to the loved ones of the incarcerated with a high priced scheme."

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Dallas County Set to Stop Most Face-to-Face Jail Visits, Charge Families for Video

Andreas Praefcke
About to become even more impersonal?
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and prisoner rights advocates are pushing back against a contract that would eliminate face-to-face meetings between inmates in the county's jails and their visitors.

County commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on a contract with Securus Technologies, a private company that provides video technology to jails. The contract, which Commissioners Mike Cantrell and John Wiley Price have endorsed, would hand management of jail telephones to the company too.

Family members would face paying for the privilege of video-conferencing with jailed loved ones under the contract, with the county taking a percentage of the money. Jenkins is OK with video visitation and fees to cover the costs, but doesn't think the county should make a profit off the system. He wants to reject the contract and seek new bids.

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Commissioner Mike Cantrell Continues Lonely Crusade Against Craig Watkins

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Sam Merten
District Attorney Craig Watkins
Mike Cantrell, it seems, got what he wanted again. He's never going to succeed in getting the County Commissioners Court to appoint an outside attorney to investigate District Attorney Craig Watkins' use of forfeiture funds in an out-of-court settlement stemming from a February 2013 Dallas North Tollway accident for which the DA was at fault, just like he was never going to get John Wiley Price suspended from the court for the duration of his federal trial, now scheduled to begin in January 2016.

Cantrell didn't walk away from Tuesday's County Commissioners meeting empty-handed, though. He had his say, forcefully and on the record, about a Democratic elected official.

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John Wiley Price Will Stay on the Dallas County Commissioner's Court While He Awaits Trial

Stephen Young
Indicted? Yes. Still stylish? Yes.
John Wiley Price is not going to be suspended or removed from the Dallas County Commissioner's Court until at least the end of his corruption trial, which is slated to begin in January 2016.

Mike Cantrell, the county's lone Republican commissioner, presented a resolution that would have suspended Price, with pay, until his trial was over. County Judge Clay Jenkins would then have appointed a replacement commissioner for the duration of Price's suspension.

Cantrell insisted that the court shield itself from the inevitable "impact on the county's integrity and public image" that not suspending Price would cause.

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Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell to Seek Investigation of Craig Watkins' Accident

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Sam Merten
State Representative Jason Villalba hasn't got an investigation of Craig Watkins (above) rolling yet. Now Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell is going to take a shot.

Friday, we told you about County Commissioner Mike Cantrell's resolution calling for the suspension of John Wiley Price from the commissioner's court for the duration of his bribery trial.

See also: Mike Cantrell Is Going to Call for John Wiley Price's Suspension on Tuesday

Price is not the only Democratic Party big fish Cantrell is going to try to reel in at the Tuesday's meeting. The court's only Republican commissioner also plans to call for an attorney to be retained to investigate and file a formal complaint with the State Bar of Texas regarding District Attorney Craig Watkins' February 2013 car wreck and the resulting settlement. Additionally, Cantrell wants the court to order an audit of the District Attorney's Office's use of forfeiture funds by the state auditor.

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Mike Cantrell Is Going to Call for John Wiley Price's Suspension on Tuesday

Soon to be taking a little break from the Commissioners Court, if Mike Cantrell's wish comes true.

Mike Cantrell, the lone Republican Dallas County commissioner, has drafted as resolution calling on District Attorney Craig Watkins to go to court to try to suspend fellow Commissioner John Wiley Price with pay until Price's federal bribery case is completed. Cantrell also wants whichever district judge who rules on Prices removal -- they're all Democrats -- to appoint a temporary replacement for Price during his suspension.

Maybe he should have asked for a pony too.

The resolution isn't likely to pass, but it's cheeky. The Dallas Morning News is writing about it, we're writing about, so Cantrell is getting something.

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County Commissioners Field Community Response to Undocumented Kids Plan

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Dallas County
Clay Jenkins

It's not every Tuesday that you see reporters from three Dallas TV stations live tweeting a Dallas County Commissioners' meeting, but that's just what happened today. Why the hubbub? This meeting was a de facto public hearing on County Judge Clay Jenkins' plan to house up to 2,000 undocumented minors in the coming months.

For the most part, those among the standing-room-only crowd who spoke agreed with Jenkins that providing aid to the kids was a matter of compassion rather than politics.

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Dallas County Health Director Disputes Misuse of AIDS Funds, Calls Media "Racist"

Dallas County
Health Department Director Zach Thompson says there's no investigation into the department. But questions and concerns remain.
Dallas County Health Director Zachary Thompson gathered the media on Monday to address reports, from Unfair Park and others, that there was a federal investigation into the department's use of funding designed to treat people with HIV. To be clear, Dallas County Health Department Director Zach Thompson declared, there is no investigation into the department. And, he said, it was racist to report otherwise.

This began a couple weeks back, when NBC5 broke the news that federal health officials would look into how money is being distributed by the Ryan White Planning Council, a committee, appointed by County Judge Clay Jenkins, that distributes federal money to poor HIV patents.

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Dallas County Accidentally Approved a Resolution Calling for Slavery Reparations

Dallas County Commissioners Court
The Commissioners Court passed a ceremonial Juneteenth resolution yesterday that included reparations for slavery.
When John Wiley Price took the microphone yesterday at the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting, his fellow commissioners appeared appropriately remorseful during his monologue on African-American suffering throughout American history. But that doesn't mean they were paying attention.

Price took the mic to urge passage of a resolution commemorating Juneteenth, a holiday marking the day that word arrived in Texas that slavery had ended. It arrived, or course, two-plus years after Lincoln abolished slavery, raising questions about whether it should be celebrated at all. Regardless, Price used the holiday to speak broadly about the hardships African-Americans have faced throughout American history, delving into slavery, Jim Crow laws, civil rights, and contemporary issues of income inequality and predatory lending.

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Dallas County Sheriff Valdez Says Recruits May Have Flunked Certification Exams on Purpose

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Something weird and unsettling happened last year at the Dallas County Sheriff's Training Academy. Of 27 recruits that enrolled, a mere seven -- barely 25 percent -- passed on their first try. Weird because the wave of failures was unprecedented. The previous year, all 16 would-be deputies passed. Unsettling because as NBC 5 first reported on Friday, it put the academy in danger of being shut down by the state.

No wonder then that Dallas County Commissioners would demand answers when they met on Tuesday. Dutiful public servant that she is, Valdez gave them an answer: the recruits may have flunked their exam on purpose.

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