Texas Criminal Justice Coalition Joins the Discussion for Art in Justice Reform

Speakers at the forum take part in a panel

The Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC), the Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts, and the California Lawyers for the Arts invited TCJC to participate in their Texas Art for Justice Forum on July 14 at the HMAAC. The forum was part of a series of events designed to discuss and expand the role that art programs and the arts community can play in addressing mass incarceration, especially in other high incarceration states including Alabama, California, Georgia, Michigan, and New York.

“As reformers we are often focused on research, data, and strategy, but we also know that sometimes that just isn’t enough to change the hearts and minds of people who make the decisions,” said Leah Pinney, Executive Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “Art can make that happen – it is an essential tool that transforms us and helps us heal both individually and as communities.”

As part of the forum, the public participated in a series of breakout sessions on juvenile justice, incarcerated women, restorative justice, program development, and bail reform. Each interactive panel discussion was led by legislators, artists, art organizations, and criminal justice reform advocates. In addition to examining the healing nature of art programs for incarcerated individuals, panelists discussed the need for members of the arts community to use their voices to advocate for justice reform.

Attendees join a panel discussion on the importance of juvenile justice at the 2018 Texas Art for Justice Forum. 


“This is an important national discussion and I am thrilled that HMAAC was selected as the venue to bring together all of these talented voices and experiences to express our Texas perspective,” said John Guess, Jr., the Museum’s CEO, in a press release.

Special guests included musician SaulPaul and a keynote from Kathyrn Griffin-Grinan, the Human Trafficking Director for Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 1 and a 2017 Rothko Chapel Oscar Romero Award Recipient. Additional special attendees included Texas State Representatives Garnet Coleman and  James White; John Abodeely, CEO of Houston Arts Alliance; Gary Gibbs, Executive Director for the Texas Commission on the Arts; and Sandra Guerra Thompson, Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center.

Doug Smith, Senior Policy Analyst of TCJC, poses with musican SaulPaul during the 2018 Texas Art for Justice Forum in Houston.


To see photos from the event, click here!

About the Author

Torrie Bethany

Torrie Bethany

Torrie Bethany previously served as TCJE's Communications Manager. A native of San Antonio, she earned her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from Our Lady of the Lake University. Prior to joining TCJC, Torrie was the communications manager for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and worked for nearly three years as the communications project coordinator for the State Bar of Texas, a member-based organization that serves over 100,000 attorneys.