The warnings and recommendations of health experts indicate that Harris County is not doing enough to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in its jail. A variety of local health experts have emphasized that jails are particularly vulnerable to an outbreak of COVID-19, as they contain optimal conditions for the spread of infectious disease. Holding thousands of people in close quarters, jails are unable to comply with CDC recommendations like social distancing and hand washing. Jail... Read more >
The first time I heard about “restorative justice” was during the summer before my senior year of high school, on my first day at TCJC. I was an eager-to-please Policy Associate (and very much still am, just now under a different title!), and I was excited to get my first glimpse into the policy world. Over the coming months, I would spend a large part of my time at TCJC poring over research about restorative... Read more >
March 16, 2020
The Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Texas Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711
Mitigating Disaster: Urgent and Just Responses to COVID-19 in the Texas Justice System
Dear Governor Abbott:
Thank you for quickly halting visitation in Texas prisons and jails across the state in response to the grave threat that a COVID-19 contagion poses to incarcerated populations and staff members. Today we write to you in support... Read more >
On Thursday, February 20, a reporter from the Texas Tribune contacted me for comment following the announcement by Senator John Whitmire that the state plans to close two prisons. The closure is a result of the prison population’s decrease from 145,402 to 141,549 people between January and December 2019, despite projections by the Legislative Budget Board that the incarcerated population would remain at or above 145,000 through 2024. Shuttering two prisons is a... Read more >
Perception Equals Potential: New Coalition in Dallas Will Work to Reverse the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Dallas has historically been a tale of two cities: one Black and one white. This problem exists to this day, especially when it comes to the divide in education, policing, and housing. South and West Dallas contain the highest concentration of Black and Latinx citizens.
The schools in these areas have a well-known reputation for excessive use of disciplinary action, which results in suspensions, expulsions, and justice system referrals. When it comes to... Read more >
Before April 2017, I truly believed that I was destined to either perish as a result of my addiction or spend my life in prison. I was a woman who’d been trapped in a cycle of drug use and incarceration for 20 years, and I had no idea how to get out of the mess I had made of my life. I’d faced incarceration in so many ways—from finding myself in and out of county... Read more >
To close out this year’s progress on TCJC’s “Justice for Women” campaign, we took to the mountains—or, more accurately, the hills! From November 8-10, formerly incarcerated women, advocates, and service providers who have been working to advance women's justice legislation in our state gathered at beautiful Mo-Ranch in Hunt for the first-ever Texas Women's Dignity Retreat. The goal was to celebrate all of the incredible progress that’s been made, build community, and plan next steps... Read more >
In the age of limitless streaming and nonstop social media saturation, we see a lot of holiday imagery that evokes peace, joy, and plenty. But if your loved one is spending the holidays behind bars, or if you’re system-involved yourself, it can be challenging to remain in the holiday spirit when December rolls around.
At this time of year, a simple gesture like a message of love and support can make all the difference for... Read more >
In 2011, I heard a loud bang on my door. My heart began to pound in my chest. I’d heard that knock before. A “cop” knock. Complete and utter despair set... Read more >
Justice for Women Campaign Update: Texas Prison Program Focuses on Trauma and Education Needs of Incarcerated Women
Yesterday, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ, the state prison system) unveiled a first-of-its-kind women’s reentry program designed to help incarcerated women address and heal from trauma, as well as connect with jobs that will be waiting for them upon their release. The program is small—only 31 women in the inaugural class, though TDCJ is aiming to double it by the end of the year—and it starts late—during the last 12 weeks of... Read more >
Over the last two years, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has worked to make the state’s criminal justice system more transparent by obtaining and visualizing criminal court data. Beginning with Harris County, this project has helped hold people in power accountable for their promises of reform.
I recently shared my story as part of a restorative justice program at the Kyle State Prison Unit for men. It was the first time I had stepped foot in an adult unit in over a decade. After I shared my experience, the men, facilitators and I broke into groups to discuss my story in depth. I could see the hunger for change in these men’s eyes as they questioned me about my prison experiences,... Read more >
Last updated: August 29, 2019
It’s Sine Die – the last day of legislative session – and TCJC is thrilled that so many positive bills have progressed to the Governor’s desk. A few have already become law!
The Governor now has a 20-day period to review the bills and either sign them into law, let them pass into law without his signature, or veto them.
Below we... Read more >
As I visited several classrooms of students participating in the Gang Renouncement and Disassociation (GRAD) process at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, Texas, I couldn’t help but remember my time in the same program at the Ramsey Unit in Rosharon, Texas, in 2010. I shared those experiences with the men in Ellis and told them how much of an impact my cognitive intervention teacher, Ms. Kathy Gant, had had on my life. I told them... Read more >
On any given day, more than 60% of the people held in county jails across Texas have not been convicted of the crime with which they’re charged. These 40,000 people are incarcerated, draining important county resources and watching their jobs, families, and quality of life crumble, simply for being unable to pay their bail amount.
“Innocent until proven guilty” is a foundational principle of American life – but for many Texans, if you’re too... Read more >
I recently visited a group of boys in the Youthful Offender Program (YOP). They’re all under 18 years old but they’ve been incarcerated in Texas’ adult prison system at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Ellis Unit in Huntsville. We enjoyed Domino’s pizza (the chicken and mushroom is the big hit) and asked each other ice-breaker questions. It was a positive experience talking with the kids. Still, it was difficult to deal with – these... Read more >
TCJC is excited to announce that our Dallas County Criminal Court Dashboard is now up and running at TCJCdashboard.org/dallas!
We’re giving you access to over 100,000 criminal court cases, right at your fingertips.
Acquiring the criminal court data for Dallas County was a much different process than obtaining the same data for our Harris County Dashboard. But through persistence and the ingenuity of our partners at January Advisors, we were able to obtain... Read more >
Three years ago, I traveled from Austin to Sacramento, California, to attend Survivors Speak—an annual event hosted by the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ), which brings together the largest gathering of crime survivors in the United States. The event allows crime survivors to share stories, honor loved ones, and advocate for change.
During that first trip to the California State Capitol, I discovered a new victims’ movement—one where a diverse group of survivors was... Read more >
Two years ago, when we began analyzing data about criminal court case outcomes in Harris County, we had a sense that the data would be useful for all types of criminal justice advocates. But most criminal justice advocates aren't statistical programmers.
That's why we built the Data Dashboard. It's an interactive tool that helps advocates track cases and trends through Harris County’s criminal court system. Anyone can log on and explore the numbers by... Read more >