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ProTex: Network for a Progressive Texas was organized in 1999 in response to a growing need to coordinate the efforts of advocacy organizations seeking systemic change in various policy areas throughout Texas. One of ProTex’s strongest programs was its criminal justice program, then called the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
Historically, Texas’ ineffective criminal justice approach had created massive over-incarceration, at great taxpayer expense. It has also led to the over-representation of certain populations in our prisons and county jails – especially people with substance abuse and mental health problems, people of color, the indigent, and people who had been wrongfully convicted. The system was broken and needed to be fixed.
Many families and individuals who had interacted with the system lacked an effective means of advancing reform. Meanwhile, an increasing number of civil rights groups were becoming aware of the criminal justice crisis and began calling for greater scrutiny of criminal justice practices. However, due to our state being as large as it is, there was little or no communication between advocates and organizations working on the same issues. Eventually, advocates saw the benefit of a network through which they could share information and strategies, as well as the need for a forum through which they could collaborate for change.
The original vision for the Coalition, now called the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, was as a background participant: We worked to bring related organizations together to support them in strategic planning and networking, engage in collective action, and build power to effect positive change.
In 2004, ProTex closed. However, the Coalition felt the need to sustain its efforts and took over ProTex’s 501(c)(3) status. The Coalition’s Board of Directors also decided that TCJC staff should assume a more active role on criminal and juvenile justice issues, specifically through policy research, ongoing strategic issue planning and networking, public education, and advocacy efforts, all of which are critical to improving our state’s justice systems.
Today, we seek the implementation of strategies that will safely minimize the entry points into the juvenile and criminal justice systems and reduce Texas’ over-reliance on incarceration. We also seek to improve juvenile and criminal justice practices for greater efficiency, accountability, transparency, safety, and cost savings throughout the system.
Philanthropedia has recognized our efforts by naming TCJC a high-impact nonprofit, with experts specifically noting our success in bipartisan collaboration and policy advocacy; the strength of our staff and leadership; our research, messaging, and the quality of our programs and publications; and our respect among decision-makers and the media.
Separately, TCJC's previous Executive Director, Ana Yáñez-Correa, Ph.D., was formally honored on behalf of TCJC by the Texas Legislature through an official resolution recognizing the organization’s research and policy analysis efforts. In 2013, Dr. Yáñez-Correa was also invited to participate in the prestigious Executive Session on Community Corrections, which is convening until 2016 at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; she and nearly 30 other participants – including policy-makers, practitioners, researchers, and advocates – were selected to identify and develop best practice strategies in community corrections, which could inform public safety and criminal justice in the United States for years to come.