Messages of Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas to the thirty-seventh legislature Page: 16 of 36
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that the more than two thousand suspended sentences given in Texas
the past two years cost the taxpayers of the State more than a half
million dollars. This is an expensive method of marching up the hill
just for the privilege of marching down.
We hear much said these days about the charitable spirit that
should be shown the young man who violates the law. We are always
doing something to make it easy and nice for those who thus err. I
raise a warning voice against this doctrine that encourages our young
men to violate the law. They should be made to know that if they
violate the law, they must suffer the punishment. The present lax
system of enforcing the law is but a school in which our young men
are being taught and trained to be professional criminals. A west
Texas grand jury last week gave to the press the information that 80
per cent of all violations of the law investigated by them was committed
by young men. A neighboring county from which this report
came, at the same time, gave to the public the information that its
district court had just adjourned, and that out of thirty-one convictions,
sixteen were given the suspended sentence. It is a matter of
common knowledge that organizations of young men have been formed
in the State for the systematic stealing of automobiles and for violating
the prohibition law. They know full well that the chances are
they will never be caught, if caught, never convicted, and if convicted,
never punished. If they are caught and convicted in one section of
the State for violating the law, they realize, at the worst, it is nothing
but a suspended sentence, and to further pursue their trade they
have only to move to another section of the State. It is the certainty
of punishment that keeps people from violating the law. The suspended
sentence law should be repealed.
As a second suggestion looking to the upholding of the law, I remind
you that at times local officers who are sworn to enforce the
law, corruptly stand in the way of its enforcement. Recent investigations
prove to me that this is true at this time in certain places in
this State. Such officers should be speedily removed from office.
Effective legislation should be at once provided for such removal.
These legal proceedings providing for removal should be instituted
beyond the local jurisdiction which may be contaminated by the same
disregard of the law. If the officers of a locality are not honestly
able to enforce the law, they should ask the State for aid, and if they
will not enforce the law, they should be immediately removed.
As a third recommendation to make more effective our laws, I call
your attention to a recent holding on the part of the Court of Criminal
Appeals to the effect that under the Dean Law, as it is written,
a conviction would not be sustained upon the testimony alone of the
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Neff, Pat M. Messages of Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas to the thirty-seventh legislature, book, 1921; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5871/m1/16/: accessed January 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .