Although the Texas Legislature won’t reconvene for its next regular session until January 2025, decision-makers are already considering issues that could impact Texans for years to come. One key topic over the next 18 months is the state’s decision whether to continue (and fund) key justice-related agencies as part of its “Sunset” review process. In today’s Beginner’s Guide, we’ll share what Sunset is, why it’s important, and how you can use your voice to make a difference!
Conditions of Confinement
Last updated: June 19, 2023
Texas’ 2023 Legislative Session is officially over, but our work isn’t done yet! Governor Abbott has until June 18 to sign bills, veto (reject) them, or let them pass into law without a signature. Now that the dust has settled, we’ve identified about 40 positive justice-related bills that still have a chance of becoming law (and a handful have already been approved by the Governor).
This past August, breaking news revealed a major crisis in Texas youth prisons. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), an agency that’s always been plagued with problems, was at a point of collapse. Due to severe staffing shortages, kids were stuck in their cells for up to 23 hours a day, forced to use the bathroom in water bottles and on lunch trays. In many cases, these are kids who are already traumatized – and isolated in tiny cells, their mental health was profoundly impacted. Nearly half were at risk of suicide, and many had self-harmed.
One year ago today, our organization launched a new name—and with it, a new vision for what justice can mean in Texas.
After 21 years—during the bulk of which we were called the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition—our staff, board, coalition members, and community came together in an important decision: it was time to change our name.
If you’ve followed previous posts in our beginner’s guide blog series (which you can scroll down to revisit!), you may know that the Texas Legislature only holds its regular session from January through May of every other year. But the reality of how our laws are made is actually a little more complicated–in part because legislators start working early, in what’s called the interim.
The holiday of Juneteenth represents hard-fought and long-overdue freedom. Celebrated on June 19th, it’s a day filled with festivities, including great food and folks wearing their best clothing. Why is that such an important part of the day? When Black people were slaves, they were given slop and scraps from their owners’ meals. Their clothes were rags pieced together from leftover materials or thrown out clothing. So the food and clothing represent a grand rising.
Last updated: June 19, 2021
After a divisive legislative session in Texas, lawmakers are headed home. But our work doesn’t end here. Over the next 20 days, the Governor will review the bills that have reached his desk and sign them into law, let them pass into law without a signature, or veto them.
In 2019, I had the memorable experience of visiting the Texas Capitol as part of an amazing team. And although I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with some of my fantastic coworkers again this year, that’s not what I’ll remember about the 2021 session. In the time of COVID-19, what’s stuck with me is a different experience--watching bills travel through the legislative process from behind my laptop screen.
In early 2020, the TCJC team had a vision: a week of justice-focused events, displays, and lobbying at the Texas Capitol during the state’s 2021 legislative session. We pictured our posters, tables, and reports laid out for legislators, staff, and visitors to learn about our work and get involved in the statewide movement to end mass incarceration. We imagined our team meeting people face-to-face and sharing stories in person.
I am formerly incarcerated, and I have spent a few Valentine’s days in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). On holidays, there is a feeling of loneliness like no other behind the brick walls of prison. I remember the homemade cards women would receive from their children in the days leading up to February 14th. Husbands would send thoughtful cards to their wives. Those cards were a glimpse of hope and humanity sent from the outside.