I remember the holiday season during my sixth year in prison. I hadn’t seen my daughter since my arrest, and I longed to be able to see her face when she opened presents on Christmas morning. The extreme separation from my family created an agonizing emptiness that persisted despite my efforts to create a community of friends inside the prison walls. The pain was especially harsh that year because my father had died the month... Read more >
If you’re familiar with our “Justice for Women” campaign, then you probably already know that Texas incarcerates more women than any other state in the country. You might also know the number of women in Texas’ criminal justice system has grown 908% since 1980.
The vast majority of women in Texas prisons are mothers. Nearly all of them have significant trauma histories—with 58% reporting having been sexually abused as a child, and 82% reporting having... Read more >
“My survival has largely been fueled by hope of a second chance at life, and I am living proof that youthful offenders are not beyond hope or rehabilitation.” Chon Dimas, sentenced to 75 years at 17 years old
On October 27th and 28th, TCJC was at the Texas Book Festival, along with family members directly impacted by youth incarceration, talking with people from all over the state about the Second Look Book. This book is a... Read more >
On July 16th, I traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to attend the National Juvenile Justice Network’s annual conference. After checking into my hotel, I headed to the downtown Durham County Detention Center, where I joined dozens of other people from around the country who had gathered to hold a vigil in honor of Niecey Fennell, a 17-year-old girl who died while being held in the adult detention center.
I’ve often written and talked about the... Read more >
In true Texas fashion, some coworkers and I spent Friday night beneath the bright lights of a high school football stadium. Giddings State School—one of five state-run secure detention facilities for kids in Texas—faced off against Hill Country Christian School of Austin in their first football game of the season.
Arriving at the stadium in Cedar Park, we were worried that there wouldn’t be more than a handful of folks there to root for the... Read more >
On Friday, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice unanimously voted in favor of a new phone contract that will cut the cost of calls for inmates and their families by 77 percent, from 26 cents per minute to 6 cents per minute. The new contract will also extend the length of calls from 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Effective September 1st, a 30-minute phone call will cost around $1.80, instead of $7.80.
I am thrilled... Read more >
GUEST BLOG: Belton, Texas, High School Student Advocates for Incarcerated Women to Have Equal Opportunities to Succeed
Texas 4-H Congress is a mock legislative event that allows young people to experience the process of drafting and passing bills firsthand. Every year, 4-H members from across the state come to Austin and submit over 300 bills for consideration by a mock House of Representatives and Senate, with hopes of the bill advancing to the desk of the 4-H Governor for signage into law.
I was proud to be a Senator in the 2018... Read more >
I watched an LGBTQ Pride Parade for the first time in New York City in June 2008. I was 20 years old and in the middle of my undergraduate degree at a small college in the Midwest. A group of friends and I drove over 1,000 miles to spend two days in New York, basking in the one of the world’s largest celebrations of love, self-expression, and community. As a young gay college student, I... Read more >
On Saturday, July 19, TCJC and the ACLU of Texas hosted a town hall at the Texas Capitol. It was one of 26 simultaneous town halls across the country – all part of The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls’ national convening, which brought together women impacted by the criminal justice system and leaders committed to engaging in gender-responsive reform efforts.
At our town hall, we talked... Read more >
How Data Can Be a Critical Tool in Criminal Justice Reform: Transparency Encourages Advocacy and Accountability in Dallas County
On any given day, Dallas County incarcerates about 5,100 people in county jail. About 71% of these inmates are “pretrial,” which means they are awaiting trial for the charges against them. If they are in jail as a pretrial defendant, it generally means they cannot afford bail, or they are held without bail.
Is the crime serious enough to do time? Not always. On average, Dallas County jail has about 400 pretrial defendants who... Read more >
I remember my time on probation in 2007. When the prosecutor offered a plea agreement for 10 years deferred adjudication, I felt as though my life had been handed back to me. Ten months earlier, I had been arrested for handing a note to a bank teller asking for $500, driven by my desperation to feed a drug addiction. At that point, I assumed that I would not breathe free air again until I was... Read more >
For nearly two decades, TCJC has been advocating for justice reform in Texas. Recently, I joined Leah (TCJC’s Executive Director) and Lindsey (TCJC’s Policy Attorney) for a short trip to Round Rock, where we got to spend time with high school and college students, talking with them about the importance of advocating for criminal justice reform in Texas.
We shared how TCJC has been instrumental in influencing over 180 statewide justice policies that have helped... Read more >
The Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC), the Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts, and the California Lawyers for the Arts invited TCJC to participate in their Texas Art for Justice Forum on July 14 at the HMAAC. The forum was part of a series of events designed to discuss and expand the role that art programs and the arts community can play in addressing... Read more >
Over the past two weekends, the Texas GOP and Democratic Party held their respective, biennial platform conventions to determine the parties’ official policy positions for the next two years. The outcome of these conventions shows that in a time where bipartisan agreement is rare, reforming our criminal justice system remains an area of common ground for the people of Texas. I want to acknowledge Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast, who... Read more >
When TCJC launched our Justice for Women campaign in March, we never expected this much momentum! In the past four months, we’ve accomplished a lot.
We released two full-length reports and a “quick guide” on the challenges facing women in Texas’ criminal justice system:
- A Growing Population: The Surge of Women into Texas’ Criminal Justice System: This report explores the concerning increase in the number of justice system-involved women in Texas, and it ... Read more >
Last November, I flew to Washington state to support Tarra Simmons; a woman who, until then, I’d only known through Facebook and mutual friends. She and I have many things in common, not the least of which is having spent time in prison.
Tarra graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Dean’s Medal and received the coveted Skadden Fellowship, which is only rewarded to a handful of law students each year and provides recipients who plan... Read more >
My mother is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Her method of coping with the trauma she experienced was to never stop moving. Literally. When I was growing up, we moved over and over again—14 times during my high school years alone. If, instead, her method of coping had been to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, there is no doubt in my mind that she would be in prison.
Very little separates my... Read more >
TCJC’s Jay Jenkins was recently quoted in an article by NBC News about Dennis Rivera Sarmiento, a high school student who was arrested in Houston and later placed in immigration detention. Allegedly, a female classmate called him a racial slur and threw a sports drink at him, resulting in an altercation between the two students. Dennis tried to report the incident to a Houston ISD police officer but, instead of receiving help, he was... Read more >
Are you ready to help transform Texas’ youth and criminal justice systems?
Do you have first-hand experience that could inform our work and advance our mission?
If so, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition could be the place for you!
If you haven’t heard, we’ve opened our search for a Communications Manager! We want to help change the narrative about what real public safety should mean for... Read more >
This is a MUST READ op-ed if you want to understand why bail reform is so important: Cash bail system promotes profit, not justice. Written by the folks at Right2Justice, this piece brilliantly summarizes what’s at stake in Houston’s bail process – your money for your liberty. Those who make money off the system don’t want that to change. But for those who can’t afford bail, regardless of guilt or innocence, losing their liberty... Read more >