On Tuesday, June 15, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted to delay moving forward with the design of a new women's jail for at least a year. The decision came after more than three hours of testimony from more than 100 callers, including formerly incarcerated women and leaders from Austin Justice Coalition, the Lilith Fund, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas Fair Defense Project, Grassroots Leadership, and other activist organizations.
TCJC In the News
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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed Thursday the agency has been directed by Gov. Greg Abbott to move prisoners from the Briscoe Unit in Dilley to make room for migrants with low-level offenses. “Beginning on June 16, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) began moving inmates from the Dolph Briscoe Unit in Dilley, Texas, to other facilities with available capacity throughout the state. This action will allow the unit to serve as a central holding facility for non-TDCJ detainees who have been arrested and charged with a state offense,” a TDCJ spokesperson said in a statement.
A new report shows that dozens of Texans have died in prison from COVID-19 despite already being granted parole. Within a year of the coronavirus pandemic, 18 people who had been approved for parole died with the virus before while still in prison, according to a report released Thursday from the University of Texas at Austin's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Governor Greg Abbott made several new announcements on Texas’ efforts to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico; including a $250 million down payment, and a letter to President Biden demanding land obtained by the Trump administration for a wall be given to the State.
Maggie Luna tried to fit all of the love she had for her three children onto a tri-fold poster board a week before her court date. Each section of the plain white board was adorned with a photo timeline dedicated to one of her children, illustrating Luna’s presence in their lives from birth up until the day they were taken from her. It was a desperate attempt to persuade a Harris County judge to let her keep the kids. But the judge didn’t bother to look up at her or her poster before terminating Luna’s rights to her children.
Lorenzo Thomas’ first memory after waking up in John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS) was hearing a Fort Worth police officer talking to a nearby medical worker. “We did one chest compression” on him, Thomas alleges officer Daniel Hafer told the medical worker.
A coalition of grassroots groups and community leaders gathered before a planned vote by Travis County commissioners to secure design services for a new $ 80 million women’s prison. The Women’s Prison is a proposed project under the 2016 Travis County Master Plan, a 20-year blueprint to modernize Travis County’s prison facilities, including a new central accounting facility in downtown Austin. Overall, the first phase of the plan has an estimated price of $ 240.5 million.
Local groups rallied Monday outside of the Travis County Commissioners Court to push for change in the jail and incarceration system. The groups called on commissioners to vote against new spending on the County’s women’s jail. The nearly $4.3 million contract is set to be voted on by commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting.
A group of criminal justice advocates, activists and formerly incarcerated people is calling on Travis County to abandon its plans to build a new, 350-bed women’s jail and suspend construction projects on any other jail facilities. Travis County Commissioners will vote Tuesday on the plan to build a $79 million women's facility, which was one of the pillars of a 2016 plan to revamp the county’s correctional complex.
Ahead of a scheduled vote by Travis County commissioners to secure design services for a new $80 million women’s jail, a coalition of grassroots groups and community leaders gathered June 7 to protest the plan and encourage alternative investments, including diversion programs. The women’s jail is a proposed project of the 2016 Travis County Master Plan, a 20-year blueprint to upgrade Travis County Jail facilities, which also includes a new central booking facility in downtown Austin.
Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a slew of police reform measures in late April, but it may be too soon to say whether the measures will result in fewer incidents of police brutality, advocacy groups said. Turner and Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner announced the changes April 29, which were proposed by the mayor’s task force on policing reform. The reforms include a range of initiatives from mental health interventions to police oversight and training.
For generations the war on drugs has raged in our state, communities and even our own families. Nevertheless, the problem remains — seemingly as entrenched as ever. For decade after decade, we have tried to tackle the problem of drug addiction with severe laws and prison time.
Doug Smith spent five years and eight months in a Huntsville, Texas, prison for a felony he committed while suffering from substance use disorder and mental illness. He was released in 2014, rehabilitated but still bound. “I was immediately turned down for 90% of the jobs I applied for because of my record,” Smith recalled in an interview, remembering the months he spent struggling to find a place to work and live during his re-entry process.
NAMI Central Texas is hosting a film screening and panel to jumpstart a discussion about mental health in America. You can sign up here to watch the film “Bedlam” which explores the mental health crisis in America by taking you inside one of the busiest psychiatric emergency rooms, jails, homes and homeless encampments where people struggle with serious mental illness.
Dallas-Based Training Academy Launches New Financing Solution to Help Underserved Workers Access Middle-Skill Jobs
ForgeNow, a skills training academy that prepares returning veterans, first-generation immigrants and formerly incarcerated adults for in-demand middle skills jobs, today announced the launch of an innovative tuition payment and financing solution that will help displaced workers access training in the high-demand fields of HVAC and electrical repair. Through a partnership with Meritize, a pioneer in financing solutions for skills-based education and training programs, students enrolled in the program will now be eligible for merit-based financing, which can in many cases reward individual borrowers for their past educational and military experiences."
Bills aimed at changing Texas election law would create dozens of new criminal penalties, many of which could largely impact people of color, according to more than two dozen voting rights and criminal justice organizations. The groups — which include MOVE Texas, Progress Texas, ACLU Texas and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition — signed a letter Monday to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dade Phelan, asking them to reconsider their support for the measures.
Shortly after George Floyd’s murder last year at the hands of Minneapolis police, Gov. Greg Abbott went to his funeral in Houston, vowing legislation “to make sure we never have anything like this ever occur in the state of Texas.”“Discussions about the pathway forward will not be taken over by politicians but will be led by family members, will be led by victims, will be led by the people who have suffered because of racism for far too long in this state and this country,” he told reporters.
5 years after murder of Haruka Weiser, students, parents, faculty evaluate UT’s public safety response
In the five years following the murder of freshman Haruka Weiser, UT has increased safety measures on and off campus to reduce crime risk. However, some advocates say additional steps could be taken to improve student safety. Weiser was walking home from a class at 9:30 p.m. on April 3, 2016 when she was killed by Meechaiel Criner. Criner was sentenced to life in prison in 2018.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes laid out a bill which would protect school districts from liability in cases of armed employees. Hughes (R-Mineola) presented SB 534 before the Senate Committee on Education Thursday afternoon.
Just days after a jury found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, Austin Justice Coalition called on the community to continue making progress. "It was one very small moment that the justice system seemed to be working," Chas Moore, who runs Austin Justice Coalition, said.