TCJC's 20th Anniversary Timeline

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition is proud and grateful to work alongside so many individuals and organizations committed to ending mass incarceration and building safe, thriving communities. We must also thank our funders and donors for their generous support of our work. Our successes – and the state’s reform progress – would not be possible without these contributions.

2000-2002: Establishment of ProTex & TCJRC Coordinating Efforts

ProTex: Network for a Progressive Texas is officially established in Austin, 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 is its criminal justice program, then called the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (TCJRC), which seeks to challenge mass incarceration and other tough-on-crime measures, after Texas had gone on a prison-building binge over the prior decades.

TCJRC is helmed by Executive Director more

2003: Budget Crisis & Fight for Smart-On-Crime Reforms

Data projections show that the demand for prison space will exceed operational capacity by 2004. Despite such alarming predictions, the Legislature – facing a $10 billion budget shortfall – signals cuts to probation, parole, and diversion programming. In response, TCJC begins to emphasize the need for a smart-on-crime – versus tough-on-crime – approach, among other things successfully supporting measures that require probation and treatment (vs. costly more

2004: The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition Takes Shape

ProTex closes its doors, but, seeing a continuing need for connection between advocates and organizations working to advance justice reform, the Coalition takes over ProTex’s nonprofit status. Now called the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC), the organization assumes a more active role in justice reform, specifically through policy research, public education, and advocacy efforts.

2004-2005: Unlock Your Vote!

TCJC oversees an Unlock Your Vote! campaign with various partners, seeking to educate and empower system-impacted people to become effective advocates for themselves and their communities. We identify formerly incarcerated people, disseminate voter registration cards and work with voter registrars to submit information, work with the Secretary of State’s office to update and distribute training manuals, and create a dedicated website with resources and information. Ultimately, read more

2004-2008: Sole State Repository on Racial Profiling Data

In 2001, the Governor signed a law requiring Texas law enforcement agencies to develop policies on racial profiling, and compile annual reports on who they stop and search, by race.

In 2003 and 2004, TCJRC partners with Texas LULAC, Texas NAACP, and ACLU of Texas to organize 12 town halls throughout the state to discuss racial profiling and the War on Drug.

From 2004 to 2008, TCJC is the only entity in the state compiling, analyzing, and producing& more

2005: Mobilization for Smarter Reforms & New Executive Director

As prison populations rise, TCJC urges the mass mobilization of people advocating for smart-on-crime reforms, resulting in the passage of policies that increase accountability for drug task forces and increase accessibility to identification cards for previously incarcerated individuals, while also allocating $60 million in new funding for more

2006-2009: Fighting Abuse in Youth Prisons 

As one of the few organizations listening to the parents of youth cry for reform, TCJC pushes the media to investigate alleged mistreatment in juvenile facilities. Eventually, intense media and governmental scrutiny uncovers rampant sexual and physical abuse in the state’s juvenile corrections facilities, leading to an immediate change in leadership at the Texas Youth Commission and the launch of a joint investigative committee. 

During Texas’ 2007 legislative session, TCJC helps drive more

2007: Shifts Towards A Smarter Funding Approach & Indigent Defense Wins

DECARCERATION: Given cuts to critical programs and services in 2003, Texas’ prison system ultimately reaches a breaking point. Mirroring advocate’s dire predictions, the state’s Legislative Budget Board projects the need for another 17,000 prison beds by 2012 if Texas’ pace of incarceration continues. The price tag: $2.63 billion over five years on new prison construction and operations. more

2008-2012: Surveys of Justice System Practitioners and Impacted People

Over a 5-year period, in response to various legislative studies into agencies and justice system-related practices, TCJC conducts over a dozen surveys to inform our advocacy, legislative policy-making, agency administration, and local budget conversations. 

Specifically, we survey approximately: 250 judges about substance use and mental health placement [2008]; 200 read more

2009-2013: Significant Reentry Reforms

TCJC makes a meaningful push for policies that will help people safely return to their communities. Ultimately, the Legislature passes historic reentry reforms that establish the state’s Reentry Task Forcelimit employer liability on charges of negligently hiring or failing to adequately supervise an employee who has a criminal conviction, require creation a comprehensive more

2010-2013: Maintained Fight for Smarter Reforms & Historic Prison Closure

In 2010, Texas faces another budget shortfall, estimated at approximately $28 billion – much greater than the deficit faced in 2003. TCJC urges legislators to maintain funding for treatment and diversion programs, warning that that cuts will sweep away three biennium’s worth of work that the Legislature had accomplished. 

To build support for reforms during the coming state legislative sessions, we hold a rally and march with Texas Forward and our justice more

2011: TCJC Expansion to Houston

TCJC expands our staff to Harris County (Houston), Texas’ largest county and its largest driver of people into the youth and adult justice systems. 

COMMUNITY RECONCILIATION: TCJC’s early efforts involve building a working unity among Black and immigrant communities in Houston, resulting in groups standing in solidarity on pressing struggles, and a report calling for restoring community trust and improving public more

2011-2014: Support for the New Texas Association of Pretrial Services

TCJC works with the Pretrial Justice Institute and Travis County Pretrial Services to improve the status of Texas’ pretrial programs and the pretrial release process generally by forming an official statewide organization, the Texas Association of Pretrial Services(TAPS), based out of the George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.  

The Association establishes various working groups; TCJC is a member of the Legislative Policy group, and we more

2014: Establishment of the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition & Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute

TCJC co-founds the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition, the largest statewide effort working to make Texas’ justice system smarter, safer, and more cost effective. The Smart-On-Crime Coalition brings together businesses, faith organizations, nonprofit organizations, and the state’s most prominent conservative and progressive organizations to pursue bipartisan plans to address, reduce, and prevent crime. At the Coalition’s launch, Ana Yáñez-Correa read more

2014: Harvard’s Executive Session on Community Corrections

Dr. Ana Yáñez-Correa and approximately 30 others from throughout the country are invited to participate in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Community Corrections, which is convening over the next 3 years. The objective is to identify and develop best practice strategies in community corrections, which could inform public safety and criminal justice in the United States for years more

2014-2015: Drug Reform & Less Incarceration in Houston 

DECARCERATION: TCJC successfully advocates for the First Chance Intervention Program (FCIP) in Harris County (Houston), which permits certain law enforcement agencies to divert individuals with Class B marijuana possession offenses into classes or programming.  

In 2015, we co-publish a report with the more

2014-2015: Major Legislative Successes & Resources for System-Impacted People

In 2014, TCJC unveils our Texas County Resources database, with community-based reentry and justice-related resources for every Texas county. Parole officers begin relying on this database to help people on parole find resources in their communities.

During Texas’ 2015 legislative session, TCJC helps fight for critical wins: more

2014-2019: Fighting to Raise the Age 

In March 2014, TCJC is invited to present testimony at a House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee interim hearing on the classification of 17-year-olds as adults in Texas’ justice system. We begin working with the Campaign for Youth Justice to ensure we make the strongest case for raising the age to 18.

After hearing that 2015 legislation might wrap the juvenile system into Texas’ adult corrections system, TCJC and our partners more

2015: Event with John Legend 

John Legend launches a #FREEAMERICA campaign in April to end mass incarceration, and he visits Austin as the first stop on his listening and learning tour. TCJC assists him with remarks at a press conference at the Texas Capitol on needed system reforms, specifically pertaining to over-criminalization and effective alternatives to confinement, and transparency and accountability throughout more

2015: New Executive Director 

The TCJC Board unanimously appoints Leah Pinney to become TCJC’s new Executive Director. Leah has been with the organization for eight years in various roles – both as an advocate, pushing for stronger oversight at the Texas Youth Commission and advancing the rights of indigent defendants, and serving as Finance and Operations Director, overseeing TCJC’s organizational development and resource management.

TCJC’s new management team also includes Molly Totman more

2015-2016: Decentralization of Texas’ Youth Justice System

In 2015, TCJC releases a policy paper, Unfinished Business: Deepening the Gains in Texas Juvenile Justice ReformThis paper is a follow-up to a comprehensive report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center on reforms in Texas’ juvenile system. TCJC’s report emphasizes the need for improved juvenile facility oversight, additional support for probation departments so more youth can be served in their communities, more

2016-2017: Deeper County-Level Advocacy


TCJC staff begin making inroads in local Austin advocacy, joining other advocates in calling on local leaders to invest in community-based programs and prioritize pretrial reform to reduce the local jail population and racial disparities in incarcerated populations.

Advocates also formalized a group, called read more

2016-2017: Advocacy Around Kids Impacted by the Justice System 

SECOND LOOK: After a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases, states were required to eliminate mandatory life without parole sentences for youth under 18 years of age. Texas now requires people who would have received that sentence to instead serve 40 years before becoming parole-eligible, a de facto life sentence that provides no reasonable opportunity to build a life outside of prison.

In 2016, TCJC co-hosts a three-day “ to discuss the issue and needed reforms, and we release read more

2017: Additional Adult Facility Closures as Decarceration Reforms Make Impact

LEGISLATIVE WINS: During Texas’ 2017 legislative session, lawmakers largely deprioritize criminal justice reform, despite advocates’ strong push to continue safe reductions in incarceration.

As part of our advocacy, TCJC and our Smart-On-Crime partners host Treatment First: A Day of Awareness, focusing on substance use disorder, public safety, and healthy communities. Practitioners, advocates, academics, and more

2018-2019: One-Size-FAILS-All Report Series

TCJC launches a four-part report series on vulnerable and marginalized populations in Texas’ justice system, specific to young people on adult felony probation, people cycling through state jails, system-involved LGBTQ individuals, and individuals who are homeless following release from confinement.

2018-2020: Advocacy in Houston Spanning Issues

DATA DASHBOARD: In 2018, TCJC works with January Advisors to develop a web-based dashboard that visually represents more than 800,000 criminal court dispositions in the county. It displays trends and outcome disparities, allowing users to see the degree to which arrests are skewed in low-income and neighborhoods of color; users also have access to bail trends and individual judges’ sentencing decisions. This dashboard sparks reform conversations by providing the data to show where change is most more

2018-2020: TCJC Expansion to Dallas 

In 2018, TCJC supports attorneys’ efforts to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against Dallas County, alleging that the county’s bail system unfairly harms low-income people by failing to consider a defendant’s ability to post bond. 

TCJC also works with the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) to expand its Right2Justice work to Dallas to conduct education and advocacy, more

2018-2020: Ongoing Youth Justice Advocacy

VISIONING SESSIONS: In 2018, TCJC works with the Campaign for Youth Justice and Youth First to plan a series of “visioning sessions” in four major urban areas in Texas, where we convene directly impacted youth and family members to tell their stories and share their insights about youth-related reform priorities. We release a report in 2019, which includes a collective set of community-driven solutions that more

2018-2020: Successful Women’s Justice Campaign

TCJC launches our “Justice for Women” campaign in 2018, seeking to reduce the number of women entering the justice system, treat system-impacted women with dignity, and increase the likelihood that incarcerated women can successfully rejoin their families and communities.

We kick off the campaign with two landmark women’s justice reports; the first explores the drivers of women into the more

2018-2020: Fight for Decarceration in Austin

OPPOSITION TO WOMEN'S JAIL: In 2018, TCJC works alongside other advocates in Travis County (Austin) to oppose construction of a new women’s correctional facility, instead pushing for community-based investments in treatment and other alternatives to incarceration. Ultimately, the Commissioner’s Court agrees to pull the funding for jail construction and instead spend a year considering other opportunities more

2019-2020: New Bills – and New Strategies to Reduce Incarceration

In 2019, TCJC’s policy team – which is comprised entirely of previously incarcerated individuals and crime survivors – successfully fights for bills and budget allocations that will: expand access to occupational licenses for people with a conviction; expand the use of peer support in Texas prisons, which can lead to greater post-prison success rates;& more

May 22, 2020: TCJC's 20th Anniversary

TCJC celebrates our 20th birthday! Over the past 20 years, our team has grown and changed – and taken up offices in other counties – and the organization has increased its emphasis on staff with lived experience in the justice system. But one thing hasn’t changed: Twenty years later, we are still hard at work to end mass incarceration and build safer, healthier Texas communities.

Over time, TCJC has helped marshal support for more than 200 policies and budget riders that are improving the lives of thousands of Texans, while the state’s crime rate has fallen to its more