MISSION & VISION
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) advances solutions and builds coalitions to end mass incarceration and foster safer Texas communities.
In our vision, all Texans live in safe, thriving communities where incarceration is rare and every person has the opportunity to succeed.
REIMAGINING PUBLIC SAFETY
Today, the very systems that drive mass incarceration are facing a worldwide reckoning. Global protests against egregious policing and racial injustice have narrowed the spotlight on historic abuses levied on particular communities and have brought TCJC’s mission sharply into focus. We fight to end mass incarceration and build safe, thriving Texas communities where every person has the opportunity to succeed.
Through work at state and local levels, TCJC supports shrinking the justice system, deflecting and diverting people from the cycle of system involvement as early as possible, and investing in our communities. We are not focused on policing alone, just as we do not focus on any individual element of the justice system. Our work looks at the bigger picture: how our bloated justice system is permanently harming people while wasting money at every level, and how that money would be better invested in equity-based resources and alternatives that give people pathways to wellness.
As part of our state legislative work, as well as our ongoing work on the ground, we have conducted extensive research on how our justice system can be transformed to save money and lives at every point of contact. This includes innovative, restorative alternatives to policing that will keep kids and adults from entering the justice system. It means sentencing and parole strategies that will reduce incarcerated populations without jeopardizing public safety, while saving the state significant money. It includes a reentry infrastructure that can improve outcomes and reduce re-offending after release from prison or jail.
This moment is an opportunity for a cultural reset, and that’s what we think it deserves: a top-down reevaluation of how our money is spent and how many of our dollars could be stretched further on the road to a future where every Texan has access to real public safety. It means radically rethinking our response to crime, as well as substance use, mental health crises, and trauma.
Although this moment represents a collective social acknowledgment of the harms perpetuated by policing and corrections systems, it is also the result of generations’ worth of frustration and fear. Repairing the historic and persistent harm done to communities of color—in particular, the Black community—by a justice system rooted in inequality will not happen overnight, nor soon enough. Past and ongoing systems of entrenched disenfranchisement and criminalization affect communities of color today in the form of disadvantages in housing, education, health care, and more. For many Texans, the feeling of being unprotected or outright endangered by our system of “public safety” is not the product of a single encounter; it is the culmination of countless damages, disadvantages, and destructions inflicted upon entire communities.
At TCJC, we hear stories every day of how our justice system is failing. Some of these tragedies make headlines, but many are confined to quiet phone calls or handwritten letters. One thing is clear: particularly for people of color, our system is not serving its stated goal of public safety.
Given this reality, changing practices or rewriting rules is no longer sufficient. It is time to re-envision our understanding of public safety. It is time to divert funding from the flawed institutions that have repeatedly failed significant swaths of the population. At the systems level, accountability means acknowledging these failures and actively working towards transformative change.
Reimagining public safety will require us to consider cycles of violence and trauma from start to finish. It means taking a holistic view of the toll that policing and incarceration take on families, and focusing on solutions that will prioritize healing and family unity—sparing damage, loss, and future justice system involvement for the next generation. It means rethinking the role of police as catch-all first responders to help reverse the pipeline of undervalued people into the justice system. It means deflecting people into well-resourced, community-based programs for prevention, treatment, or restorative programming. It means evaluating reentry as a process rather than a disparate set of challenges, and working to improve outcomes in housing, licensing, job placement, trauma recovery, and more on the path to success for individuals, families, and entire communities. It means listening to the needs of communities most harmed—working with crime survivors, formerly incarcerated people, and other directly impacted people towards accountability and rehabilitation, rather than punishment and perpetuation.
Reimagining public safety requires us to recognize that the institutions that make some people feel safe put others in danger. It forces us to acknowledge the direct link between inequitable systems and justice involvement. It demands that we approach complex social problems, and each other, with empathy.
Reimagining public safety may be difficult for some, especially at these emotionally charged crossroads and during a global health crisis. But, if anything, this landscape proves how badly change is needed. If we invest in our public health and education infrastructures and prioritize the needs of communities, we can move forward together into a vision of public safety that is fiscally responsible and morally sound.
Texans deserve better, and we at TCJC are committed to fostering racial equity, insisting on accountable leadership, and building safe, healthy Texas communities.
We believe that each Texan has inherent worth and can contribute to a vibrant, safe community. The values below further this belief and lie at the heart of our work. They inform our overarching policy goals and shape our daily interactions with community members, advocates, practitioners, agency leaders, and policy-makers.
We believe that a fair justice system is transparent and holds itself accountable to all those it serves.
Trauma, drug abuse, or mental health disorders too often result in justice system involvement. We believe that these issues should be addressed not through incarceration but through compassionate care.
We believe that every individual who is impacted by the justice system deserves to be treated with respect and to have his or her needs addressed with dignity.
Texas is a vibrant state. We value and celebrate each person’s contributions to our social and cultural fabric.
We believe that each Texan should have access to the individualized resources and support needed to live a safe, healthy life.
We believe that Texas will be safer and stronger when the justice system treats every person justly and impartially – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, income, disability, or sexual identity.
We believe that our families and communities can heal and thrive when we support meaningful opportunities for a second chance among those who choose to lead a productive, safe, law-abiding life.
We believe that Texas must continually strive to identify and implement the approaches that increase public safety and address the needs of those entangled in the justice system.
We believe that justice should not be reserved for the wealthy. The rights of every Texan must be protected, and every crime survivor deserves to have his or her voice heard and needs met.
We believe that Texas will have safer communities and healthier families when all individuals have the resources and opportunities to live up to their fullest potential and are encouraged to express their skills and talents.
We believe that Texas must acknowledge the value, potential, and dignity of every person when creating and implementing justice policies and practices that impact our communities and families.
HOW TCJC DOES OUR WORK
- We conduct policy research and analysis on issues impacting the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
- We draft policy proposals and make recommendations on relevant issue areas.
- We form effective partnerships with key stakeholders on both sides of the aisle.
- We lift the voices of those who are entangled in the system, who work in the system, and who are striving to improve the system.
- We work with agency leadership to advance common goals.
- We strive to identify county-specific solutions to address localized needs.
- We create reports, fact sheets, and other educational materials on areas of needed improvement.
- We provide invited and public testimony before legislative committees on relevant issues.
- We provide “how to” information about passed legislation to assist implementation.
- We provide helpful resources to community members, including through our Texas County Resources database and through flyers on how to navigate the youth and adult justice systems.
- We provide advocacy trainings to interested groups.
- We encourage public participation in the legislative process before, during, and after Texas’ legislative session.
- We serve as a reliable source for the media.
What TCJC Does Not Do
- We do not provide legal assistance or representation.
- We do not endorse candidates.
- We do not endorse specific products, services, or providers.