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ANDY COLLINS HAS REVEALED HIMSELF for what he really is—a self-serving promoter [“The Great Texas Prison Mess,” May 1996]. In an attempt to deflect attention from his malfeasance, Mr. Collins implies that the public concern about crime and the incarceration of convicted felons was a hoax orchestrated by the criminal justice establishment. Need anyone be reminded about the increase in all crimes in the eighties and violent crimes in particular, about Texas inmates’ serving as little as 8 percent of their sentences because of lack of capacity at the Texas Department of Corrections, about parole disasters such as Kenneth McDuff. No responsible person disagrees that we must stop the “crime factories” that are turning too many of our children into crime-prone adults. However, it would have been foolish to deal only with youths and not with the criminal adults among us now. The Texas prison system was bursting at the seams, more than 30,000 state inmates were clogging county jails, a federal judge was on the verge of fining the state thousands of dollars every month because of the condition of the Harris County jail, and dozens of parolees were being released from custody every business day. Now violent criminals serve at least half of their sentences and nonviolent criminals are serving a significantly greater percentage. Obviously the feeding frenzy in which Mr. Collins attempted to participate was improper; but we should separate the way the prison building was implemented from the necessity for it.
W. C. KIRKENDALL
District Attorney, Seguin
I APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CLARIFY a few points in Robert Draper’s article on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Although I did form Corrections Solutions before I resigned as chairman of the board of the TDCJ, it was for consulting opportunities in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. I made no domestic efforts until after I was off the board. I had no interest in VitaPro when it was introduced to Andy Collins. That took place in a large staff meeting in Austin, where I introduced the Texas broker for VitaPro, the distinguished former U.S. treasurer Azie Taylor Morton. The concept of selling it to other states developed some time after that meeting. I have never had a business relationship with Mr. Collins. I terminated my ongoing relationships with the Louisiana juvenile unit effort nearly four years ago. Furthermore, I never knew of the VitaPro five-year contract until I read about it in the newspaper.
CHARLES T. TERRELL
MR. DRAPER IMPLIES THAT THE CRIMINAL justice board’s decision to place a prison unit in Burnet was quid pro quo for naming the prison after me and that I was “giddy” about it. The truth is, the board chose Burnet for a substance-abuse facility in 1992 because the Central Texas area was lacking such a facility. I was an advocate for the site because it is important to keep prisoners near their families, and Central Texas inmates were being sent to far east and west Texas. Some two years later, the mayor of Burnet mentioned that some of Burnet’s citizens wanted to name the prison after me. For months I resisted the idea. It was at the urging of friends within the criminal justice system and victims groups (whom I represent on the board) that I agreed to accept the honor conferred on me by the people of Burnet in 1994, although it will not become official until my term is completed in 1997.
ELLEN J. HALBERT
Texas Board of Criminal Justice, Austin
Mr. Draper replies: Ms. Halbert’s letter is correct, but she has misunderstood my point about the Burnet facility, which is this: It is inappropriate for a sitting board member to accept an honor from a facility she is supposed to be regulating.
MR. DRAPER ALLEGES THAT RUFUS DUNCAN forced contractors to hire Hoople Jordan. A good reporter would have easily learned that the work Mr. Jordan did occurred before Mr. Duncan went on board. I have known Mr. Duncan for more than thirty years. He has no “self-serving agenda” and has spent countless hours trying to save the state money in the prison system.
Mr. Draper replies: The specific projects referred to in my story are the Dalhart and Amarillo prison units. A TDCJ internal memo dated September 22, 1993, and documents generated by an engineering firm contracted by the prison system indicate that Mr. Duncan was indeed a prison board member when he pressed contractors to use the paving material supplied by his friend Hoople Jordan to build those two prisons.
THE DAY I RECEIVED MY MAY ISSUE, with Robert Bryce’s story [Reporter: “Bombers Away”], an article appeared in the Abilene Reporter-News announcing the activation of a new B-1 squadron at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. Apparently, the Air Force has decided that the B-1 will remain the backbone of the bomber force. This decision necessitates the technological modernization of the B-1; as a result, one thousand new jobs will be added at Dyess. As an Abilenian, had I not had this news when I read Mr. Bryce’s article, which forecasts stormy weather for Abilene and Dyess, I might have felt more than a little trepidation. Mr. Bryce argues that the B-1 is outdated and suggests retiring the entire fleet of B-1 bombers. I do wonder, however, why Mr. Bryce derides Abilene and Abilenians for their successful relationship with the Air Force when so much of the military activity in Texas has been axed. Let’s celebrate Texas’ little victory in Abilene. The political weather here is just fine.
THE B-1 HAS ITS PROBLEMS, but don’t be too quick to condemn a new aircraft with problems. Consider the F-111. Many, including members of Congress, wanted to cancel the contract because of numerous problems with this first swing-wing jet fighter. The Air Force stood its ground, and by Vietnam, the F-111 was a workhorse. It was also the aircraft of choice for the long-range raid on Libya. Not bad for what was once called the Flying Edsel.
Colonel, United States Army, Retired San Antonio