As the seasons change and hopes of temperatures dropping become real, I have begun to look back on the incredible journey that has led me to where I am today. Hispanic Heritage Month holds a special place in my heart; it is not only a time to celebrate our rich cultural heritage but also an opportunity to share stories of resilience and rebirth.
I was just a teenager when I first started using drugs. After feeling the effects of drugs for the first time, I remember thinking, “This must be what happiness is.” I had spent every moment in survival mode for as long as I could remember. I had finally found a way to escape and numb the pain. For the next 20 years, that was my only solution until I completely lost everything – my family, my children, and myself.
Keenan Anderson, Tyre Nichols, and Tortuguita are just a few of the many intentional, state-sanctioned murders that have taken place in 2023.
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.
As Pride Month 2022 comes to a close, I sat down with the TCJE comms team to share my thoughts on what the month means and the intersections between our work and the LGBTQ+ community. Below is our Q&A!
Q: How are LGBTQ+ people uniquely impacted by the criminal legal system?
A: There are some stats that show how stark this issue is:
I’m sure you’ve seen the posts all across social media: it’s the time of year when people reflect. They’ll share their most heard songs (mine: “Jackson” cover by Trixie Mattel and Orville Peck, “Jerome” by Lizzo, “The Six” by the Six the Musical cast). Or they might note personal accomplishments from the year (mine: a lot of homemade empanadas and one truly phenomenal maple pecan pie).
In the past, I’ve shared how police brutality is a women’s justice issue, particularly for women of color. One example of this is in the news today with the case of Lawrence Parrish. In 2017, Lawrence’s girlfriend called police to say that he was acting strangely. After setting up a perimeter around his house, Austin Police officers shot him.
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.