About Rick Oliver

Rick Oliver is a criminal trial and appellate lawyer. In 2016 Rick was certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Criminal Law. He applied for board certification less than 7 years after being licensed and having never worked under another attorney, or as an assistant district attorney, and without relying on a single court appointment in order to meet the application requirements. He is a 2007 graduate of South Texas College of Law and has been a solo practitioner since 2008. His articles have been published by The Voice and The Defender. He is a member of TCDLA, HCCLA, MCCDLA, NACDL, and DUIDLA. He lives in Humble with his wife and two children.

Twitter: @rickoliverlaw

Tough On Crime Should Not Be a Judicial Temperament

America is a Country of ideas.

Obviously, not all of us share the same ideas or the same ideals. It’s okay, though. Our antecedents have been negotiating the inherent tension that exists between those who see the world through different eyes since the founding of this great Republic. We might not always agree, but we can try to work something out. The two-party political system in this Country is but one example that reflects that simple truism.

Most politicians run on a platform; sadly, not literally. Instead, their platform is represented by the ideas they believe will benefit whatever constituency they are trying to woo. Often, what creates tension in a polity is the reality outlined above—not everyone is going to agree on which ideas are best or should be or can be implemented. In Texas, state judicial races are among those still decided as part of the political process.

In my opinion, it is hard to imagine a more asinine method for selecting the most appropriate stewards of the law than judicial elections.

As a baseline, I would argue that the essence of any “idea” is its ability to be opposed. In my opinion, if an “idea” is not one subject to opposition, it isn’t really an “idea” at all—it’s just reality.

In reality, no society can persist without the rule of law.

Different societies have different rules. Regardless, without, at least, some variant of the rule of law, any society would quickly unravel. The reason for that is simple: society is nothing more complex than the association of people from disparate backgrounds. Without a line in the sand—the rule of law—there is no reason for people of one tribe or house to expect they will be treated the same or similarly as those of another tribe or house. If that be the case, there is no reason for them to work together or in harmony. The predictable result of a society without trust is anarchy.

That’s why I’ve never been particularly baffled by periodic street riots. They’re the emblematic manifestation of a lack of societal trust. The inability of those engaged in the mayhem to articulate their motives with purposeful clarity does nothing to undermine my opinion. Put simply: a society without uniformity and trust is a society without boundaries or inhibitions.

In the context of judicial elections, the problem with politicizing those selections is it inherently undermines the ability of the victors to apply the law uniformly, once the race is run and the work begins.

So-called “Tough on Crime” campaigns are a perfect illustration of the problem. Thanks to political innuendo and stump speeches, the notion that certain citizens want their judges to be “tough on crime” has become a recognized political talking point.

The problem is “tough on crime” isn’t an idea, at all.

Now, this isn’t the place I go off the rail on some leftist political rant. I’m not particularly liberal. Innately, I don’t trust zealots or politicians. I’m not especially conservative, either. Instead, I’m merely a defense lawyer who believes he understands the justice system a little better than the average citizen; and one who understands how ridiculous and intellectually insulting it is to suggest that “tough on crime” is in any way a political statement appropriate for a state judicial race.

It’s not.

It’s a political expedient that forsakes the very purpose of our system of justice and the document that was drafted to guide it.

The Executive and Legislative branches of our State and Federal governments are responsible for proposing and passing legislation that includes the penal law. If you want your politicians running for those offices to be “tough on crime,” by all means vote for them.

But, the justice system isn’t a place for politics.

Judges were meant to be arbiters; neutral and detached. They’re stewards and interpreters. They shouldn’t be politicians.

Judges are not responsible for drafting the laws that are enforced in their courtrooms. So, “tough on crime” has no association with criminalizing conduct. Instead, a “tough on crime” judge can only impose that kind of partisanship in a limited number of instances. The two most prevalent instances that occur to me are:

  1. Evidentiary rulings; and,

 

In practice, judges are routinely asked to decide whether certain evidence is admissible or inadmissible, whether certain questions are proper or improper, or whether certain facts violate a citizen’s rights.

When asked to decide any of the above issues, a “tough on crime” judge ought to be rightfully expected to interpret the facts presented in a manner that inures to the benefit of law enforcement—to be tough on crime. Unfortunately, logic and the composition of our Republic are in fatal conflict with that notion.

First, every citizen accused of a criminal offense is presumed to be innocent. It’s not just me saying that and it’s not just a good idea—it’s the law. The presumption of innocence is one of the pillars in the law that brings balance to the system. In other words, it’s what prevents tyranny and dictatorship.

A neutral and detached arbiter is another of those pillars.

Law enforcement is responsible for enforcing the laws of the land and ferreting out crime. The criminally accused are those being sorted and weighed for prison orange and separation from society. Obviously, there exists an inherent conflict between the two parties. Notwithstanding the fact that a vote for a “tough on crime” judge encapsulates a tacit request that they ignore the presumption of innocence, it’s basically like having the manager of one baseball team stand behind the plate to call balls and strikes for both. In a justice system like that, I find it hard to see the point in even having judges. In any event, that’s not how our Founding Fathers thought the ledger should balance.

Second, “tough on crime” judges erode the foundation of our system of justice; leaving behind merely the appearance—the farce—that justice prevails. The reason for that is simple: the decisions made by “tough on crime” judges can nearly-always be expected to fall on the side of law enforcement. Why? They want to be re-elected (that’s the big difference between federal appointments and state elections—federal appointments are for life). Thus, legal arguments founded on constitutional principles are relegated to mere fait accompli. That’s not justice. That’s intellectually insulting. Insulting the criminally accused with notions of justice—rather than actual justice—does not promote societal trust.

Third, “tough on crime” judges are slowly eroding the rights afforded to each of us in the Bill of Rights. In Constitutional law, there is something referred to as a “glossing over” effect. In other words, if judges and courts apply the law in a manner that is contrary to what is actually embodied in a statute long enough, the effect can be a permanent change in judicial interpretation. In other words, bad decisions can eventually change the law. So, if no set of facts ever rises to a level that violates the rights of an accused guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, eventually, no one will enjoy those protections. Ultimately, the simple truth is bad decisions may eventually hurt more than just those presumptively deemed “bad” on the basis of an allegation or criminal complaint.

Fourth, “tough on crime” judges encourage the other side to cheat. There are laws in place that protect citizens accused from what is often referred to as “over-zealous prosecution.” That’s a euphemism for cheating. But, a mischievous prosecutor standing before a “tough on crime” judge has little to fear when their mischief is uncovered. Why? Because the legal remedy does not inure to the benefit of law enforcement.

Fifth, “tough on crime” judges promote systemic incompetence. Generally, I would submit that most of us were raised in homes or on playing fields where our performance was constantly critiqued. I know I was. I believe that process has helped me to become a better man. If nothing else, it assured me—at an early age—I’m not perfect and am prone to making mistakes. I don’t think that’s a signal of my nefariousness or depravity. I think it’s a signal of my humanity. But, somehow, it seems a belief has crept into the justice system that suggests critiquing law enforcement is tantamount to treason. In appellate law, there is a preference for the finality of judgments. The basic argument is that the reversal of one case could trigger an endless succession of lawsuits asserting similar claims. To avoid that, reviewing judges and courts affirmatively search for reasons to pour the claims of litigants out. In addition to being morally offensive in the context of the criminal law and the Constitution, that kind of thinking is just plain stupid. Judges that bend their interpretation of the law to suit the ends of law enforcement send a message to law enforcement that they’re “doing it right.” That, quite simply, isn’t always the case. No one learns from a “pat on the head.” And, to bang on the same societal drum, a uniform and predetermined stance that law enforcement is always right does nothing to promote societal trust.

Our courtrooms aren’t retail shopping malls, and law enforcement isn’t always right.

A judge with the intestinal fortitude to follow the law—even to the detriment of law enforcement—is one who embraces a “teaching moment.” Prosecutors will have a better understanding of what will or will not pass Constitutional muster in the courts in which they practice. That understanding will inform the decisions made as to whether a particular investigation supports prosecution. To avoid professional embarrassment and a refusal to prosecute, law enforcement will conform its conduct to suit the law. One goal this approach would accomplish is to reinforce constitutional principles. Another thing it would do is inform those responsible for enforcing the law that there are boundaries separating the rights of law enforcement and the rights of the citizen accused. Respecting those boundaries promotes the trust that seems to be missing from society at-large, today.

I don’t want my judges to be “tough on crime.”

I want my judges to be “correct on crime.”

As a defense lawyer, I don’t think I should win every argument. But, I do think I should win every argument that is based on a correct interpretation of the law.

If “tough” means anything other than “correct,” I believe it’s unconstitutional. And I do not trust the political process enough to make such fine distinctions.

It is long-past time to remove partisanship from the bench.

Evolution of Bail Bonds

bail_bondsMany of the concepts that form the foundation of our system of justice were borrowed from what we refer to as the common law as it was developed during Anglo-Saxon times. That was a long time ago.

A really, really long time ago.

Even then jails were expensive. And, bail wasn’t that common. Mostly, bail wasn’t that common because most criminals were summarily dealt with by resort to mutilation or execution. Suffice it to say early punishment options were not particularly progressive or sanguine. Regardless, sometimes there were protracted disputes that took time to resolve. So, to avoid the costly hassle of incarceration while the matter was pending the sovereign would release the accused in exchange for a pledge of lands or money. The pledge was kept as security in the event the accused failed to appear to answer the charges. So, if the accused skipped town the accuser got the money and was made whole.

Back then, the concept of bail made perfect sense. After all, if the sovereign released you while a matter was pending what assurances did it have that you would return to answer the charges? They could ask that you promise to return. And, I’m sure for many of the accused their honor was still among their prized possessions. For them a promise was enough. But, what about those who lacked honor or for whom a conviction and untimely death or facelift was a reasonable certainty? What about those who’d maybe pre-purchased tickets for passage on the Nina, the Pinta, or even the Santa Maria? If they were to release those people from jail before resolving the case, how on Earth did they expect to be able to ever find them again?

There were no organized police forces. No radios or walkie-talkies. No fingerprints or CSI. No FBI or Interpol. There were no “mug shots.” There was no America or its “Most Wanted.” They didn’t have TV or local news or surveillance footage. They didn’t issue social security or driver’s license numbers or even library cards.

Neither the cobbler nor the haberdasher nor the apothecary inquired whether his customers would be paying with “cash or credit card.” The wheel was still the pinnacle of automotive achievement. VIN numbers and license plates were not affixed to horses or wagons. Oxen were not subject to yearly registration at the local DMV. There were no computers or email. No landlines or pay phones or fax machines or cell phones or iPads or even tablets not made of stone. There was no “cloud”—only clouds.

The wary remonstrance of the middle-aged regarding this “device” or that was reference to whatever medieval torture device was in vogue for that season. They didn’t post pictures of their junk or their breakfast or of both on MySpace or Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or Instagram or any of the innumerable web-based dating sites. Ponce de Leon was still 400 years from being born and so the question of whether he could have located the Fountain of Youth with the aid of GPS and Yahoo or Google Maps remains tragically unanswered. There were no Angry Birds—only birds.

In Anglo-Saxon times the idea of “bond jumping” might literally have been as easy as riding to and settling in the next village over or not answering aloud when an out-of-breath and angry-looking authority figure called out your name. So—to complete the thought—cash bail made sense when the idea of technological advancement still referred to things that were hewn out of stone. Such technological ineptitude carried forward to the days of the Wild West when the for-profit commercial bail bond system began to proliferate in this Country. And, I’ll admit that when the West was still wild commercial bail for all of the accused still made plenty of sense. But, that’s probably the last time it made much sense.

Why?

Think about what it is. A citizen is cuffed and stuffed and matriculated to the County hoosegow. They get ink on their hands and a Glamour Shot. They go sit in a holding tank. At some point a queue is formed for magistration. That’s where a magistrate hears probable cause and sets a bond amount.

The statement of probable cause is an entirely one-sided affair. Citizens accused do not have their lawyers present. Accusers are not subject to cross examination. The evidence is not tested. Alibi witnesses are not called. No defense is presented or even asked for. The only meaningful advice given the accused is that they should remain silent. It is the untested accusation leveled against a person who is legally presumed to be innocent that primarily informs the magistrate with respect to setting a bond.

To ensure bond figures are not pulled out of asses or hats magistrates refer to a document known as the “bond schedule.” It’s easy enough to find. The bond schedule for felonies in Harris County is online here and the bond schedule for misdemeanors is here. If you haven’t the time or data or inclination to explore the links, I’ll give you the quick and dirty summary. Basically, bond amounts escalate based on criminal history and on the seriousness of the offense.

Now, there are two ways to satisfy the bond necessary to secure release from jail. There are “cash bonds” and there are “surety bonds.” Cash bonds are a perfect example highlighting the iniquity inherent in the system. Let’s say the magistrate sees that you have no prior criminal history and that you have been charged with a first offense DWI. S/he looks down at their trusty little bond schedule and sees that $500 is what it recommends. You’ve got a good job. You’ve got a savings account with a rainy day fund and—it’s raining. Luckily, within a few hours you have the financial wherewithal to make it rain—to the tune of $500—in the County lockup. Paying the full amount will secure your release with a document that includes your first County court date. The County holds on to that $500 until your case is resolved. Once resolved, and provided you made all your court dates and did nothing to warrant revocation of the original bond amount, you get your $500 back.

Wait? Upon resolution of the case you get the $500 back? So…what was the point? The idea supporting the temporary extortion of $500 is that it alerts the citizen to the seriousness of the situation and that it’s too much money to simply abandon. So instead, the expectation is that a person will dutifully appear at their regularly scheduled court dates until the case is resolved to avoid forfeiting the money.

Bond is to court what cheese is to a mousetrap.

It’s really just that simple.

Surety bonds are for those of us who cannot make it rain. If you can’t make it rain a surety surely can. Bond companies are the purveyors of surety bonds. Generally, they charge ten percent. So, you pay their fee and they go down to the jail and make it rain on your behalf—to the tune of $500. Once you’re out on bond the bondsman’s role is reduced to a singular focus: make sure you show up to court. That’s it. That’s their only job: to make sure you show up to court. Indeed, that’s the only purpose served by a bond in the first instance: to make sure you show up to court. It matters not whether the bond amount is $500 or $500,000. It is the mechanism relied upon by the courts to ensure the presence of the accused. To make sure you show up to court.

That’s it.

If you cannot make it rain yourself (i.e. cash bond) or by proxy (i.e. surety bond) you sit in jail until your case is resolved.

Why?

They have no other way of ensuring you show up to court.

Really?

The Shah’s of the industry suggest that “commercial bail is user-funded” pretrial release that imposes no financial burden on the taxpayer.[i] In other words, citizens accused of criminal offenses are required to post bond or pay someone else to make sure they show up to court. Now, I’m on board with the idea that taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pay a ransom to monitor the criminally accused to ensure they make their regularly scheduled court appearances. But, what exactly is the cost of “monitoring” those who have every intention of appearing in court? And, why are we presuming such “monitoring” is necessary?

Isn’t this America?

The land of opportunity and second chances?

How about a first chance?

Granted, for those committed to a life of crime and for those whose transgressions shock the conscience, polite society has every right to expect pretrial release to be burdensome. That’s why the bond schedule amounts escalate based on criminal history and on the seriousness of the offense.

But, what about those with no criminal history or whose offenses are relatively minor? Moreover, what about those with no criminal history or whose offenses are relatively minor who happen to also be poor?

Here’s a thought: give them a chance.

I find myself annoyed by the suggestion that every citizen accused needs monitoring. Reformation might start easily enough were we to actually confer upon citizens the promises already written in our code in the form of the presumption of innocence. It’s insulting and shameful to suggest every otherwise upstanding citizen accused of a crime will somehow ignore or otherwise fail to appear in court. It’s also insulting and shameful to believe every otherwise upstanding citizen accused of a crime is guilty. Often, I tell clients compulsory due process can be loosely translated to mean “Fuck you—prove it.” Plenty of them have stood with me and forced the State of Texas to attempt to do just that. And plenty of them have won. Trust me, my clients and I are not alone. Clearly, not every citizen accused will run.

But, even if you refuse to believe that, all is not lost. Why not at least give them a chance to screw it up? We’ve already discussed cash and surety bonds. But, there is a third option—seldom used. It’s called a PR bond, or, a personal recognizance bond. Basically, it means you get released without having to pay any money. So, what that means is those with no criminal history or whose offenses are relatively minor would be released on a PR bond. They leave knowing what they are charged with and that a warrant will issue for their arrest if they fail to appear in court on the scheduled date.

I can already hear the gnashing of teeth.

But seriously, it’s 2016 and I’ve never even seen a team of oxen. There is a 24-hour news cycle and more people meet for the first time online than in person. There are medical conditions associated with staring at a computer screen or device too long. Is there really a rational belief that folks raised in the city have the ability to fall off the grid? Is there really a rational belief that even if they did they couldn’t or wouldn’t be found?

So, if they don’t appear for whatever reason, a warrant issues and they get re-arrested. Forevermore, if they want out of jail, some kind of bond would be necessary. Why? Because we gave them a chance and they blew it.

The idea is not particularly revolutionary, either.

Want to know what a traffic ticket is? Next time you’re cited, read the fine print. A traffic ticket is a PR bond. The officer writes you a citation based on probable cause to believe you committed a traffic violation. Your signature on the citation is your promise to appear in court. No bond. No muss. No fuss. You get a ticket and promise to appear in court to deal with it. That’s a PR bond. Want to know what happens if you don’t show up on the court date? A warrant issues for your arrest. Sound familiar?

And somehow, the Country isn’t on fire.

Personally, I think it’s a good idea because it doesn’t begin with a presumption of criminality. Granted, I’m biased in favor of freedom. Nevertheless, I also think it’s a good idea because there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

If a citizen accused cannot afford a cash or surety bond and is not granted a PR bond by a judge or magistrate, they sit in jail until their case is resolved.

Many pretrial detainees are also the family breadwinners. Except, when they go to jail and don’t turn up for work and after a few days are fired. When they get fired those families they were winning bread for lose what little support they once had. They don’t go anywhere because they can’t afford to. Fortunately, we don’t allow them to starve and die in the streets in this Country. Instead, taxpayers pay for them to be placed on social services. Thanks to our draconian pretrial release policies a family that was previously contributing to the tax base is now dependent upon it for survival.

That seems smart.

Jail is not fun.

Still, jail is not free.

And, seeing as how those pretrial detainees are in there on account of their no-account status, taxpayers end up footing the bill for their stay there, too. And later, because us taxpayers are so magnanimous, we foot the bill for their appointed lawyer, as well.

What’s insulting about it is the fact that we’re not paying to house them on account of their criminality. We’re paying to house them because we aren’t positive they are the kind of poor but otherwise upstanding citizens who would show up to court if accused of a crime.

Being broke isn’t a character flaw.

Unless you happen to be accused of a crime.

[i] https://www.accredited-inc.com/pdf/news/com-bail-facts.pdf

Re-enfranchisement After Debt to Society is Paid

On April 22, 2016 Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, took executive action to re-enfranchise thousands of ex-cons by returning to them the right to vote. But, in the patois of the streets, they have to be “off paper” first. In other words, ex-cons who have served out their sentence and are no longer under any form of adult supervision are free to do what nearly half of us do every four-year presidential cycle: nothing.

In 2016, it seems preposterous to suggest anything that falls short of war mongering, carpet bombing, free lunch, free college, spray tan, sweat glands, email etiquette, or hand-to-Johnson ratio can be rationally characterized as a stunt. Still, the move by McAuliffe has been roundly criticized by Republicans as politically motivated jiggery-pokery. Ostensibly, what sparked the ire of some Republicans is the fact that most of those incarcerated in this country are minorities. And, there is an historical expectation that most minorities will vote Democrat. So, they reasoned, it was a quasi-attempt to ‘stuff the ballot box’ in Virginia.

Ignoring the elephantine racism inherent in the syllogism, the Governor’s move got me thinking. First, I wondered whether Texas convicts enjoyed the right to vote upon satisfaction of the terms of a felony conviction. I’ll admit I was shocked to find the law in Texas is not among the most arcane and oppressive in the land. Here, once you’re “off paper,” you can vote. The second thing I wondered about were the general implications of re-enfranchising some 206,000 convicted felons.

Now, we’re all familiar with that old saw: do the crime, do the time. Believe it or not, I have absolutely no problem with that. I certainly don’t see myself as a crime enthusiast. Instead, I see myself in opposition to fear mongering and government overreach and in support of the Bill of Rights.

Crime should not go unchecked. But, not every crime should be punishable by death; metaphoric or otherwise. In that vein and on the opposite end of the spectrum, most of us are also familiar with the redemptive promise inherent in a man’s statement that he has “paid his debt to society.”

I’ve never been convicted of a felony in this or any other state. So, I don’t think I can speak with authority on the trials of a felon without having experienced his travails. But, I’ve got debts. I’ve got loads of those. I borrowed my way through college and then graduate school and then law school. And while I have always felt a kind of reticence to admit the bounty I had to borrow to finance my education, that reticence melts away each time I manage to pay something off. I’ve been able to pay off a few credit cards. I’ve even knocked out some of my smaller student loans. Granted, each of those final payments has represented nothing more than a drop in the proverbial bucket. Still, every drop of “final payment” has felt absolutely baptismal.

I get a sense of relief and of hope knowing one day the lie I tell myself about finally escaping debt will feel less cruel and unusual. More than that, though, is the feeling of pride I experience in those moments knowing I shouldered a debt—underwritten by My Ass National Bank—and am peeling the son of a bitch off of me one miserable bill at a time. I look to the future knowing one day I will have finally ticked my last chalk mark on the wall; a day outside the bank standing tall and with little more than the clothes on my back knowing a profound and simple truth: It’s over. It’s done. It’s finished.

Today, I can only imagine the relief and the joy I’ll feel on that day. But, the point is, I can imagine it.

I think a lot of people—even those whose decisions have resulted in final felony convictions—might look back on their life and see it through a similar lens. Of course, I realize the glaring disproportionality. But, I believe there is, at least, an elemental similarity. After all, in life we are but a compendium of our decisions; some good, some bad. And the damnable peculiarity of it is that both have the ability to make us better people. So, I may not be a felon. But, struggle is relatable. And, I share the soul of my struggle with everyone else who has struggled.

If struggle is one side of the coin, hope, I think, is the other. And I believe hope is relatable, too.

What hope does a felon have?

There is a website purporting to provide a compilation of the collateral consequences that befall a person convicted of a crime. It’s searchable by state. I streamlined my Texas search to include only those felony offenses with consequences described as “Permanent/Unspecified.” My search returned 503 individual “Permanent/Unspecified” sanctions. I didn’t read them all. It was too depressing. Suffice it to say, if a felon cannot even hope to obtain gainful employment at the local Bingo hall (16 TAC §402.402), his options are pretty limited.

Keep in mind these are not merely sanctions imposed while an inmate is serving out his sentence. These are the roadblocks that remain after a person has “paid their debt to society.” These are the limitations placed upon those we expect to become “contributing members of society.” In reality, the truth is this: a person convicted of a felony can never truly “pay his debt to society.” The juice runs on them in perpetuity.

Many may pause here thinking the limitations placed upon those convicted in the commission of felony offenses are perfectly reasonable consequences of bad decision-making. I get that. Hell, to a limited extent I even agree. Some offenders—like murderers and child predators—should never be fully re-integrated with society. But, the truth is prisons aren’t filled with murderers and child predators.

In Virginia they took a small step in the direction of re-enfranchising those convicted of felony offenses and I commend them for it. I don’t think it’s a good idea because I’m a bleeding-heart liberal defense lawyer, either. I’m not particularly liberal and any bleeding in my heart would only be a sign of a medical emergency. I think it’s a good idea because I believe it enhances the public safety.

In 2013, the average male life expectancy was 75.90 years; for women, 80.5 years. A 2006 study showed the average age of a felony offender was 33 years old. That’s about 42 years between conviction and death. Moreover, that’s about 42 years of life as a putative second class citizen. To be honest, I just don’t think that’s a good idea. Do the crime, do the time: I’m with you. After that, with certain exceptions, I believe they should be given an honest shot at redemption—at re-enfranchisement.

Why?

Simple.

Most successful people do not resort to street crime for one very simple reason: they have too much to lose. The artificial and often permanent limitations that relegate felons to second-class citizen status mean those people leave prison only to find they have no real hope of ever achieving success. That if they pay their taxes and avoid further transgressions they can wallow in the middling existence of those destined to live check-to-check and hand-to-mouth. Tell me: do you think those people really feel they have all that much to lose? And on average, they have about 42 years to think about that.

One day all my debts will be paid. Then, for me, it’ll be over. It’ll be done. It’ll be finished. But for ex-cons it’s never over. It’s never done. It’s never finished. Not really. I cannot imagine an existence more hopeless than that.

Recidivism isn’t always proof of criminality. Sometimes, it’s proof that disenfranchisement can lead to open revolt. I’m from Texas. So, I get it. We can put down a revolt. But maybe, just maybe, it might be worthwhile to consider the wisdom and ease of avoiding it.

I don’t want to reward crime.

I want to restore hope so that crime doesn’t seem like it’s the only option.