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.
TCJC In the News
Press Contact: For all media inquiries, please contact Madison Kaigh, Communications Manager, at mkaigh@TexasCJC.org or (512) 441-8123, ext. 108.
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.
Two months ago, as the threat of COVID-19 began to rapidly alter life on the outside, Sam says changes were happening more slowly inside the Wynne Unit, a state prison in Huntsville, where he’s currently incarcerated. Even as cities banned mass gatherings and told people to stay home, life in lockup remained mostly the same. That is, until late March, when the first Texas prisoners and prison employees began testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
Clutching a clear plastic bag of belongings, Lisa Oxendine walks slowly out of the Durham County Detention Facility and into a crowd awaiting her arrival. “I’m so glad to meet you,” Serena Sebring says, handing her a bouquet of bright flowers. “Welcome home.”
COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in Texas prisons in recent weeks, with the virus infecting and killing incarcerated people and staff, and likely spreading into nearby communities through the thousands of workers who travel back and forth each day. Yet some confirmed COVID-19 cases in state prisons are being excluded from the Texas health department tally with little explanation from government officials.
Texas criminal justice advocates: Jails, prisons 'epicenters' of coronavirus as more than 2,000 test positive
When news of the coronavirus swept across the globe, Jay Jenkins, Harris County project attorney for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, said one place immediately came to mind as a deadly hot spot: jails. “In a pandemic, a jail is one of the most dangerous places to be,” he said.
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. last month, the number of young people in local secure detention centers fell by 24%, according to a new survey by The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Some juvenile justice experts would like to see the reduced rates become permanent.
Activists are demanding that Austin Police Chief Brian Manley be terminated, and Mayor Steve Adler on Monday called for an investigation in the wake of a police officer’s fatal shooting of a man. Michael Ramos, 42, was killed Friday evening after an officer shot at him as he slowly drove away from police outside an apartment complex on South Pleasant Valley Road, video taken by witnesses shows.