TCJC Blog

12/03/2019

What you can do for system-involved Texans this holiday season

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 >

10/24/2019

How fighting for myself became a fight for other trafficking survivors

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 >

09/25/2019

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 >

New Guide: Lessons for Creating a Data Dashboard in Your County
09/18/2019

New Guide: Lessons for Creating a Data Dashboard in Your County

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.

With funding from Microsoft Cities Team and a partnership with data science firm January Advisors, this work expanded geographically to Dallas County, as well as expanding in... Read more >

09/05/2019

I Walked the Line

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 >

05/27/2019

2019 Bills That are Still Moving or Have Become Law

 
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 >

05/22/2019

Taking off the mask: GRAD program helps heal men who have hurt others

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 >

Mother’s Day Update on TCJC’s “Justice for Women” Campaign
05/12/2019

Mother’s Day Update on TCJC’s “Justice for Women” Campaign

Last March, TCJC launched a Justice for Women campaign to urge the Texas Legislature to address the needs of women impacted by the criminal justice system. We kicked off the campaign with 2-part report series, which found that the number of women in Texas prisons had grown by

... Read more >
An incarcerated person with his hands on the bars
05/07/2019

What Good Bail Reform Looks Like in Texas (And How We’ll Get There)

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 >

Reflections on my visit to the Youthful Offender Program in Texas
04/30/2019

Reflections on my visit to the Youthful Offender Program

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 >

New Dallas County Data Dashboard Provides Critical Transparency and Accountability Mechanism
04/25/2019

New Dallas County Data Provides Critical Transparency and Accountability Mechanism

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 >

02/19/2019

Survivors Speak Comes to Texas

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 >

01/23/2019

5 Lessons Learned from Launching TCJC’s Data Dashboard

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 >

11/28/2018

Sending Love to People Behind Bars This Holiday Season

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 >

11/16/2018

Our “Justice for Women” Campaign Represented at the Texas Conference for Women

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 >

11/13/2018

Second Look at the Texas Book Festival

“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 >

09/11/2018

We Can’t Stop Beating the Drum on “Raise the Age”

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 >

09/05/2018

Friday Night Lights

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 >

08/24/2018

Cheaper by the Minute: Costs of Phone Calls in Texas Prisons Slashed

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 >

08/13/2018

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 >

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