Finis Prendergast was expecting to have his day in court when COVID-19 came barreling into Harris County in March. The 42-year-old veteran has now spent 28 months awaiting trial at the county jail on an aggravated robbery charge; the court has reset his proceedings seven times during the pandemic.
TCJC In the News
Press Contact: For all media inquiries, please contact Madison Kaigh, Communications Manager, at mkaigh@TexasCJC.org or (512) 441-8123, ext. 108.
On Opening Day of 87th Texas Legislative Session, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Prioritize Justice Reform
Kicking off the opening day of Texas’s 87th Legislative Session, where state leadership will be contending with a billion-dollar budget shortfall, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) repeated their previous call for lawmakers to prioritize communities over corrections in an unprecedented year.
State of Texas: ‘The public needs access to its government’ — balancing health and transparency at the Capitol
Lawmakers from every corner of Texas are preparing to return to the State Capitol for the start of the 87th legislative session. The state still does not have an official plan for how the upcoming 87th Legislative Session will operate during the pandemic. But the Texas House of Representatives has outlined a framework for the opening ceremony, offering the first glimpse of how lawmakers will balance transparency with COVID-19 precautions.
Texas’ prisons and jails have been coronavirus hot spots throughout the pandemic. At least about 200 Texas inmates have died with COVID-19. So have more than 30 people who worked inside the state’s prisons — and countless others have spread the virus inside lockups and into the surrounding communities.
More than 33,000 staff and prisoners have caught COVID-19 in the Texas prison system. A WFAA investigation with The Marshall Project exposes how the coronavirus spread due to a lackluster response by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
After being released from prison or jail, many people struggle to find housing. That in turn can prevent them from getting treatment for an addiction or from securing a steady job, and ultimately, staying out of jail. It’s a situation now made even more difficult by COVID-19. Amna Nawaz reports on one woman’s quest for housing in Austin, Texas, as part of our "Searching for Justice" series.
While the economy and the pandemic remained of primary importance in many individuals’ vote for president and the Senate, Texas exit polls suggest crime and safety were the most important issues for a significant portion of Republican voters as was racial equality for an even larger portion of Democrat voters.
Republicans up and down the ballot tried to link Democrats to lawlessness, but lawmakers in both parties are keeping criminal justice reform on the table.
In 2018, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition estimated 158,500 Texas youth identified as LGBTQ, including about 13,800 transgender students. Discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in sex education is being inclusive to all students, and also has the potential to limit bullying and harassment. This is no small detail. As we noted in a recent editorial about homophobic politics — especially in a North East ISD trustee race — LGBTQ students are vulnerable. They are more likely to be in the foster system, end up homeless or forced into sex-trafficking than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.
The Texas District & County Attorneys Association, an advocacy group for prosecutors across the state, quipped on Twitter last week about state lawmakers’ effort to address criminal justice reform. “Some things never change” was followed by a shrugging emoticon.
Providing a chance at parole for rehabilitated juvenile “lifers” is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, a 17-year-old survivor of domestic violence is preparing for trial in Texas. She faces up to 40 years in prison for a murder committed by a man her family says was trafficking her. Despite Zephaniah Trevino’s history of trauma and agreement by the defense and the prosecution that she did not pull the trigger, she is on the precipice of an extreme prison sentence. How did we get here?
Today, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) released its legislative strategy for the 2021 Texas Legislative Session. The organization’s strategy is presented as a “divestment portfolio” for Texas lawmakers and is titled Spend Your Values, Cut Your Losses: Smart and Safe Justice System Solutions that Put Communities First.
More people in Texas prisons have contracted and died from the coronavirus than in any other prison system in the country, a new report found. Between April and October, more than 23,000 incarcerated people tested positive and just shy of 5,000 staff have, according to the report from the University of Texas at Austin. That means people in Texas prisons are testing positive at a rate 40% higher than the national prison population average.
When Lori Mellinger was growing up in East Texas, her family talked about politics all the time. They voted in elections both national and local. "I voted for the first time when I was 18 years old," Mellinger said. "I think that’s the last time I probably really voted for the candidate that my family chose, and then started going a different direction."
New Report Shows How Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Experience the Criminal Legal System in Texas
A new joint report from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) and The Arc of Texas shows how individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DDs) are more likely to become involved and entrenched in the criminal legal system, and it highlights the unique challenges they face.
On May 25, 3030, the Minneapolis Police murdered George Floyd. The bystander-recorded video footage of the killing showed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s back for eight minutes and 46 seconds as Mr. Floyd protested that he was unable to breathe.
Profiting from prisoners: Communities and companies made money off George Floyd’s imprisonment. Inside, Floyd withered.
The prison transport to this tiny city north of Austin took George Floyd past ranch land and cotton fields — worlds away from his home in Houston. But for the then-36-year-old Floyd, the spring of 2009 was another turn through a cycle of incarceration that would be both familiar and futile.
This week, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) released an open letter urging Texas leaders, legislators, and staff to prioritize justice reform during the state’s 2021 legislative session. With Texas facing an anticipated budget shortfall of $4.6 billion by the end of fiscal year 2021, TCJC emphasized the urgency of this moment as an opportunity for a top-down realignment in how our state’s money is spent, and the need for real public health and safety infrastructures.
The Houston Police Department plans to join Harris County’s cite-and-release program, fulfilling advocates’ long-running request to implement a policy they say keeps low-level offenders out of jail and saves law enforcement resources for more serious threats.
The discussion around criminal justice reform in Harris County is complex and often heated. Stakeholders disagree on what that change should look like and how to go about it. The issue of how to handle repeat offenders is a major sticking point. According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, more than 70,000 people return to the community from Texas prisons each year.