Monday, August 27, 2012

Brainy Endorsements: Remington Alessi

Remington Alessi is the Green candidate running for Harris County Sheriff, against incumbent Democrat Adrian Garcia and Republican Louis Guthrie. There is no Libertarian candidate.

Alessi is the Green most likely to strike fear into the hearts of Democrats, as he is running a, shall we understate, unconventional campaign that provides a striking contrast to typical law enforcement candidates like Garcia and Guthrie.

As both a new activist and a cynic, I have little trust for politicians and despise their hypocrisy. Justice is important to me, and I believe that justice goes beyond retribution – justice is fair, understanding, and humane. We need a system that more accurately reflects that reality, and I feel that the Harris County Sheriff's Office is a good place to start. My education and expertise makes me a qualified choice, because where I lack experience as a beat cop arresting people, I am uniquely aware of macroscopic law enforcement issues that my opponents are ill-equipped to address or even recognize. Refocusing the HCSO to better reflect an institution of justice and public service is central to the needs of the people of Houston.

I will let you go read his issues page that includes thought-provoking positions on the influence of the private prison industry on public policy; the squandering of law enforcement resources in prosecuting vice crimes; the actual tax contributions of undocumented workers; bringing law enforcement out of the Dark Ages and the need for better mental health services as a response to crime; and transforming prison-to-work programs.

Two recent news items, this one from Scot Henson at Grits on private prisons, and this one from the Chron on state Sen. John Whitmire's evolving views on incarcerating prostitutes, reinforce Alessi's positions.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the issues section, along with a few videos of Alessi speaking about some topics of the day in various fora.

I propose that the HCSO no longer dedicate law enforcement personnel to enforcing (marijuana) possession laws. We have far too many more pressing problems on our plate to be wasting resources on perpetuating policies that are no more reasonable than those that were responsible for the prohibition of alcohol nearly a century ago. This is doubly so when we consider the glaring problem of budget crises that currently plague all levels of government.

On the topic of vice crimes, prostitution bears mention. Obviously many people have moral issues with prostitution. But then, the fifth commandment instructs believers to honor their father and mother, and we don't lock people up for failing to adhere to that. Going beyond traditional moral issues, we still have to ask ourselves about the practicality of enforcing either of these issues. Judging from the fact that making prostitution illegal has done nothing to stop it, we should ask whether or not it is worth our time when we simultaneously are in a position of limited resources and other issues like human trafficking come into play.

The first video is from a recent Houston City Council meeting where Alessi spoke on the homeless-food sharing ordinance.

Due to the defunding of state and local mental health institutions during the past decade, approximately one quarter of the Harris County Jail's nearly 12,000 inmates require mental health services, and of those, roughly ninety percent have been placed in the Harris County Jail have been placed there before.

This is a glaring problem, and requires that the HCSO meaningfully address this issue by creating more humane conditions for these individuals who have been abandoned by society. The cruel and inhumane treatment of those least among us is, at its heart, a moral issue, but financial issues should be considered as well in the spirit of pragmatism. Valuable resources are dedicated to this policy of criminalizing the mentally ill, and the Harris County Jail's eleven full time psychiatrists are laughably understaffed and unequipped to provide proper care to inmates with mental health needs.

Here Alessi spoke about unions, and strikes, following one of the street actions associated with the recently-concluded Houston janitors' strike (Alessi's remarks begin at about the 1:45 mark).

I've previously mentioned in passing -- in my endorsement post for Henry Cooper against another Democratic incumbent, Jessica Farrar -- the disagreements I have with Sheriff Garcia. His vigorous support of a bad Obama Administration immigrant policy, Secure Communities, is at the head of the list. Describing himself proudly as having evolved into a conservative in terms of its enforcement would, of course, be another.

That last is just more of the bullshit I am sick to death of: your typical Democrat thinking that acting like a Republican is going to get Republicans to vote for him. It's not going to work any better for Garcia than it did for Tony Sanchez in 2002, or Bill White in 2008, or James Cargas in 2012.

Meanwhile, the actual Republican in the contest, Louis Guthrie, is nothing but a joke.

Guthrie, who now works for the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, received four letters of reprimand and two suspensions during his tenure with Harris County. He caused two traffic accidents, loaded his weapon with improper ammunition at an off-duty job and pressed a prisoner about his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, according to sheriff's office records.

He was suspended one day in 2002 for engaging in "horseplay" with two other deputies at a training exercise. He was also suspended 15 days, which was reduced to 12 on appeal, and ordered to anger management counseling after he used excessive force with a man he was escorting from a bar at closing time while on an off-duty job.

Guthrie's termination stemmed from a July 2008 incident at a car wash in Humble, where his wife alleged $17 had been stolen from her car. The May 2009 termination letter states Guthrie, who was off-duty, arrived at the business driving his cruiser and in uniform. He blocked the entrance to the car wash and circled part of the facility in crime scene tape, then detained the employees and took their driver's licenses to check for warrants. Some of these decisions may have been illegal acts of official oppression, the letter states.

Note in this last video that Alessi reports some positive response from Libertarians for his campaign.

Here is Alessi's Facebook page and his Twitter feed. It's pretty obvious to me that outside of blind red-and-blue partisan voters, the choice for Harris County Sheriff could not be more clear.

Prior Brainy Endorsements have included the following:

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Don Cook for Congress, 22nd District
Max Martin for Congress, 36th District

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