Ed De La Garza
Crystal J. Doucette
A good start
Texas inmates fighting for their freedom
will finally have access to DNA testing.
Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill that would
let those inmates whose guilt is in question to take state-paid tests that
could prove their innocence.
It would allow between 30 and 50 inmates
-- provided they qualify -- to take the $1,000 to $1,500 tests each year.
The state would have to preserve DNA evidence to be used in future testing.
Such evidence could also be used to solve
unsolved crimes with the creation of a statewide database. Police wouldn't
be relegated to using photos, sketches or fingerprints alone.
It could be seen as a way to appease public
outcry over Texas' high prison population and high execution rate, but
it is something the state most certainly needed to do.
There have been far too many cases where
a prisoner isn't exonerated until after he or she has been locked away
for months, or even years. It's a step in the right direction for a state
in dire need of prison reform.
When President Bush made his run for the
White House, his record as governor was taken to task. Texas was labeled
a backwater state with an itchy trigger finger. It was as if the governor
spent his time giving the green light to executions. It was as if Texans
were proud to have more inmates than any other state.
The death penalty is a part of Texas law,
but the new bipartisan supported bill could take the "What if they're innocent?"
argument away from detractors.
DNA evidence has proven to be the smoking
gun in many a court case. Used to prove a person's guilt, it's only right
it now be used to help change a decision -- if an inmate was falsely imprisoned.
But while the law would help after a person
has been convicted, it doesn't change the fact that people are still wrongfully
imprisoned, making it just the beginning.
There is a definite need for prison reform.
The state cannot build more jails so it can accommodate more prisoners.
It cannot provide "justice for those who can afford it" rather than justice
for all. There needs to be true reform -- keeping the prison population
from escalating and making certain only those who are truly guilty are
At least, with Texas now joining about
12 other states, this decision could help our chances of escaping that