The novel SARS-CoV-2 has roared through the American landscape leaving physical, emotional, and economic devastation in its wake. By early July, known infections in this country exceeded 3 million, while deaths topped 135,000. Home to just over 4 percent of the global population, the United States accounts for more than a quarter of all fatalities from Covid-19, the disease produced by the coronavirus.
TCJC In the News
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In April, as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to swell across North Texas, Harry Jacobs was booked into the Dallas County Jail on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Jacobs, 22, was offered probation and scheduled to leave jail June 19 to formally accept his plea deal in a courtroom. But he didn’t make it home until 13 days later, the result of administrative breakdowns regarding his quarantine status that have the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the judge in the case pointing fingers about who’s to blame.
When Marsha Madrigal was in middle school, she thought it was normal to see her classmates in handcuffs. But she knows now that not all schools have a significant police presence, and the odds of seeing your classmates arrested go up if you are Black, like she is.
When I first met him in 2016, Reginald Moore was deeply frustrated. The retired longshoreman had spent much of the previous two decades trying—without much success—to bring attention to the brutal convict leasing system that flourished in Fort Bend County in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Arrests that land young people in the Texas juvenile-justice system have dropped since the coronavirus pandemic began, mirroring a national trend, according to a new analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Alycia Castillo is a youth-justice policy analyst for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and said the closure of schools because of COVID-19 is likely responsible, because many kids are arrested for classroom violations.
San Antonio Independent School District trustees Monday approved a $636 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, counting on a promise from the state education commissioner that funding rules released Tuesday would keep the district whole and assuming flat enrollment based on registration rates.
As the school board finalizes its FY2021 budget, racial justice advocates are calling on the Austin Independent School District to move money away from policing. The Austin Justice Coalition and other groups are asking the board to divest from what they consider "excessive funding" for school police departments – that includes not filling vacancies or increasing the number of school resource officers.
The Austin school board early Tuesday morning approved a $1.65 million budget, which dips heavily into district reserves to cover a $47.6 million shortfall. The 2020-21 budget sets aside spending $33 million in coronavirus-related expenses, including technology for remote learning, training materials and personal protective equipment.
A recent study shows that when appointing attorneys to represent indigent clients, elected judges in Harris County (Houston) were far more likely to choose lawyers who had donated to their campaigns. In these “pay to play” cases, the study further found that defendants were more likely to end up in prison or jail, and received longer sentences on average.
Burbank High School history teacher Luke Amphlett is a member of PODER-The Social Justice Caucus of The San Antonio Alliance. The group is made up of rank-and-file educators who are education advocates and social justice in schools. “We should be very intentional about our priorities when we’re talking about school spending,” Amphlett said. “And asking the question, is school policing the most effective way to spend those tax dollars?”
Prisons and jails have returned the highest coronavirus case positivity rate in the state of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference this week. The number of positive prison cases has increased by 568% since May 1.
Cities around the country including Austin, Atlanta and Oklahoma City, have released body camera videos of controversial police encounters in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody as there are more insistent calls for more transparency from law enforcement. Body-worn cameras for all Houston police officers were introduced four years ago, but the public has rarely, if ever, been able to view any footage.
One month ago, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles approved Juan Escobedo’s parole request. But before the state will release the 41-year-old inmate, who is serving a sentence for a third drunken driving offense, he must complete a 6-month substance-abuse recovery program.
Calls throughout the nation to defund the police have reverberated in one of San Antonio’s largest school districts, as several social justice groups called on San Antonio Independent School District to divert resources from its police force and hire more mental health professionals and social workers.
A study of lawyer appointments has found that judges were more likely to appoint lawyers who had contributed to their election campaigns to represent indigent defendants than they were to appoint nondonors.
Nearly 60 years ago, the Supreme Court decided the case of Clarence Gideon, a Florida drifter accused of breaking into a poolroom who was tried and convicted without a lawyer. In a unanimous ruling, Gideon v. Wainwright, the court transformed criminal justice in America, announcing that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government.
Nearly 60 years ago, the Supreme Court decided that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government. The court did not say how the lawyers should be chosen, and many states settled on a system that invites abuses, letting the judge appoint the defendant’s lawyer. That system has been criticized for promoting cronyism and dampening the zeal of lawyers who want to stay in judges’ good graces.
Orlando Vences says prison saved his life. Behind bars, he reconciled with his family and got his GED. Vences said he dropped weight and realized he was destined to do more than just sell drugs. But now, on the verge of his release, he is afraid the system that helped turn his life around could instead mean his death.
Today, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) released a new report focused on addressing rehabilitated youth who are serving extreme sentences in adult prisons with little hope of ever being released. “Second Look: For Justice, Safety & Savings” provides a comprehensive background on the history of extreme juvenile sentencing and the extent to which Texas is a harsh outlier.
As the coronavirus ravages Texas prisons, family members are calling for the release of their loved ones who are near the end of their sentence or who may be eligible for parole. Dozens of demonstrators gathered on the State Capitol lawn on Saturday outside the Governor’s Mansion, asking Gov. Greg Abbott to use his powers and direct the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to release their loved ones.