By the time the jail reported its first staffer with COVID-19, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo had spent days working on an executive order that would allow broad-scale compassionate releases of medically vulnerable, nonviolent inmates. But the effort has been complicated by an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, indicating to local officials the state may try to intervene.
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.
One Texas prisoner has tested positive for COVID-19 and is being treated at a hospital in Galveston. The 37-year-old man is now medically isolated after reporting shortness of breath and a cough Saturday at Lychner State Jail, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) announced Tuesday.
Not even prisons are immune to the #toiletpaperapocalypse of 2020. On Wednesday, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials imposed a one-roll-per-day buying limit on corrections officers at state prisons after they began buying it by the case from at least one prison commissary.
As the number of infections and deaths from the new coronavirus rise across Texas, prison officials are ramping up efforts to prevent an outbreak among the state’s 149,000 inmates.
As imprisonment rates for women rise disproportionately across the nation, a group of formerly incarcerated women in Texas has called for family-oriented policies that provide mothers with community-based alternatives that allow them to avoid jail, in addition to major changes to state sentencing guidelines such as sharply lowered penalties for nonviolent drug offenses.
COVID-19: Texas Advocates, Community Leaders, and Justice System Experts Send List of Urgent Mitigation Directives to Governor’s Office
Today, a group of advocates, community leaders, and justice system experts sent a list of urgent recommendations regarding COVID-19 and incarcerated populations to Governor Abbott. Urging state leadership to recognize the particularly dire threat that the global pandemic poses to people incarcerated in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities, the letter lays out recommendations for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, county jails (including sheriffs, courts, and district attorneys), law enforcement, and the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
Last week, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Texas rose, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner urged local police to think twice about who they arrest and bring to his jail.
Zero-tolerance policies can set up a pathway that leads a child’s future to be defined by their misbehavior, no matter the other situations happening in the child’s life. If you break the student codes, if you are struggling, if you have an emotional blow-up while at school, if you mess up, does that mean you don’t matter?
Yesterday, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) released a new report sharing the future policy priorities of the Texas Women’s Justice Coalition. The report, called “The Future of Dignity: Insights from the Texas Women’s Dignity Retreat,” is the result of a wide-ranging policy discussion led by many of the women who pushed for eight new women’s justice bills to become law during the 2019 Texas legislative session.
More than a year after the botched Harding Street raid, which left two people dead and five officers wounded, we still don’t know the full extent of the rot in the Houston Police Department. Chief Art Acevedo is convinced that it’s a case of a bad apple infecting an otherwise air-tight department. But as Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg’s review of cases tainted by former Houston narcotics officer Gerald Goines expands, that’s increasingly difficult to accept.
Zero tolerance disciplinary policies in some of our public schools are creating a school-to-prison pipeline. It needs to be shut off. The disturbing findings of a recently released report from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition show how harsh disciplinary policies that offer little or no flexibility disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities.
Addiction treatment in America is like a Rubik’s Cube. We’ve talked about this. We know this. We feel this. But good programs do exist. This week, we visit The Women’s Home in Houston, a non-profit established 60 years ago, to check out their long-term approach to residential treatment.
As of Sunday, Texas prison inmates can no longer receive greeting cards on colored paper from their children and loved ones. The new policy — named Inspect 2 Protect — was approved in February as a way to eliminate contraband, such as drugs, from coming into prisons through the mail, said Jeremy Desel, Texas Department of Criminal Justice director of communications.
When Michael Bryant was found with illegal drugs last year, it landed him in jail for about a month, exacerbating his problems with addiction. Bryant, who is now 33, had been struggling with drug addiction for much of his life, and the problems got worse in 2015, when he moved to Austin from New York after a difficult breakup.
The cards and artwork that Maggie Luna’s children sent to her in prison helped her make it through her sentence. “It was one of the few things I had to look forward to,” she says. Now new mail and visitation rules in Texas prisons could further restrict what little contact family members have with loved ones in lockup.
Even as Texas celebrates the good news of its growing statewide population, there is one population segment that is shrinking, and that is also good news. The number of people incarcerated in Texas has dropped by more than 15,000 over the past decade. Last year alone, the number fell by 4,000 to about 140,000 prisoners, according to a report from the Legislative Budget Board.
On Feb. 6, two armed police officers in Florida walked a 6-year-old girl out of school and into the back seat of a cruiser. They’d been called to take her to a mental institution after she allegedly threw chairs in her elementary school classroom. Body camera footage later published by a local news station shows the girl calmly walking to the car. Police can be heard discussing how school officials must have overreacted.
A coalition of criminal justice reform groups has found significant racial disparities in arrests and incarceration rates for people in possession of a gram or less of controlled substances in Travis County, Texas. A new report on the findings comes as the county’s largest police department, in Austin, faces accusations of institutional racism and overzealous policing of people for drug use, even in cases where both the City Council and the county prosecutor have said they will not prosecute.
It may be a small step, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is putting a little of his money where his mouth is on criminal justice reform. Thursday afternoon, the governor announced a specialized clemency application process for Texas Department of Corrections inmates who were victims of sex trafficking or domestic violence prior to their being locked up.
Gov. Greg Abbott rolled out a new clemency application specifically for survivors of human trafficking or domestic violence Thursday afternoon. The new application, launched in coordination with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, will include a specific section for applicants to provide a statement about experiences with human trafficking or domestic violence.