Perry Didn’t Lead On TX Justice Reform, Leaving System In Healthier Shape


Assessing outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry's criminal justice record, the Texas Tribune notes that he sought more prisons back in 2001, but ended up leaving behind a criminal justice system in healthier shape than when he stepped up to serve out George W. Bush's unexpired term. How instrumental Perry was in improving it remains an open question. “The governor was in a position to let it happen,” said Tony Fabelo, a former Texas official and now research director of the Council of State Governments' Justice Center. “In that sense, honestly, I give him credit.”

Among the reforms adopted on Perry's watch: a life sentence with no parole, a measure slowing the pace of the state's death chamber, post-conviction DNA testing of evidence and the Michael Morton Act, which gives defense attorneys better access to prosecution evidence before trial. “Gov. Perry has not led on these issues, but he didn't sabotage them either and deserves credit for not being an obstructionist,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, whose mandatory DNA testing bill for evidence in death penalty cases Perry signed. “As the most powerful public official in the state, Gov. Perry gets credit for what we have achieved but also bears some responsibility for how far we still have to go.”

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