Lia Pikus is no stranger to the intersection of seemingly unrelated passions. As a recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a grant that allows graduating seniors to pursue an independent study project outside of the United States, she is bringing together two passions of hers — music and prison abolitionism — for her project “Beyond the Bars: Music’s Role in Reimagining Punishment.” At some point in the near future, she will be setting off to observe inner-carceral music programming first hand and experience musical community on a global scale.
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.
Dallas ISD must stop using school suspensions as the district works to redress racial disparities, a group of local and statewide education advocates demanded Tuesday. Doing so would help keep children on track and position DISD as a national “game-changer” in taking meaningful steps toward policies that underscore the Black Lives Matter movement, advocates said.
One Year After First Taking Action on COVID-19, Texas Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Decry Continuing Dangers for Incarcerated People
Exactly one year after the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) first asked Governor Greg Abbott to protect incarcerated people and their communities from the urgent threat of COVID-19, the organization is remembering the lives lost to the virus and continuing to push for action. On March 16, 2020, TCJC and a large group of advocates and system-impacted people published a letter to Governor Abbott and the state’s criminal justice agencies with clear directives to mitigate the potential disaster of a deadly and fast-spreading virus in youth and adult corrections facilities.
Starting Monday, Texas prisoners will be able to see their loved ones in person again with some restrictions. It's been one year since Texas banned prison visits due to the pandemic. Here & Now's Tonya Mosley speaks with Kirsten Ricketts, who hasn't seen her husband Jeremy Ricketts since March 13, 2020. She's on the steering committee for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition's Statewide Leadership Council.
For the first time in a year, Texas inmates will be allowed in-person visits, another sign that the state is working to return to some semblance of normalcy following the disruptions of COVID-19. The policy takes effect Monday (March 15), according to a recent story from the Texas Tribune.
During the Pandemic, Houston Cops Went Undercover and Arrested a Homeless Man Over 0.6 Grams of Meth
Last year, according to documents obtained by The Appeal, the Houston Police Department received a tip that drugs were being traded in an encampment for unhoused people at the 700 block of Booth Street, near Moody Park. On Oct. 20, as COVID-19 cases were just beginning to surge around the nation to previously unseen levels, at least two officers took an undercover stroll through the encampment.
Starting Monday, Texas inmates will be able to resume in-person visits with family and friends for the first time since the governor declared a public health disaster a year ago, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In the last year, Texas prisoners have struggled through the pandemic, getting sick by the hundreds and seen fellow inmates and prison staff die from COVID-19 — all without being able to see their loved ones.
On International Women’s Day, Texas Women’s Justice Coalition Continues Fight for Better Outcomes for Women Impacted by the Justice System
For the fourth consecutive year, the Texas Women’s Justice Coalition is taking action on International Women’s Day to keep women out of the justice system and improve outcomes for those who have been impacted by arrest and incarceration. The Texas Women’s Justice Coalition is comprised of more than 70 formerly incarcerated women, advocates, and service providers seeking to stem the tide of women’s incarceration, improve their conditions of confinement, and help women successfully return to their families and communities.
When LaToyia Walker was sent to Texas Lockhart Correctional Facility in 2017, her grandmother would scribble short notes on pre-written greeting cards before mailing them to the prison. Writing letters had become challenging after her grandmother suffered a stroke in 2012, and the greeting cards were a critical way of maintaining contact.
Statewide Leadership Council: Advocates Call for Emergency Planning in Texas Prisons Following Horrific Week [Press Release]
After historic winter weather caused a statewide emergency and devastated power and water supplies throughout Texas, families of incarcerated individuals from across the state are demanding better emergency preparedness for Texas prisons. The horrifying conditions experienced by incarcerated individuals and prison staff during the winter storm revealed a lack of preparation by prison officials to address even the most basic needs.
As a winter storm battered Texas, 4.5 million people lost power. A humanitarian crisis mounted across the state, as residents lost heat and running water while food stocks dwindled. Dozens have died since February 11, likely from hypothermia. People without basic services sought sanctuary with friends, received assistance from mutual aid groups or, in the case of Senator Ted Cruz, fled to the warmer pastures of a balmy beachside resort in Cancún.
Who is at fault for the misery in Texas, and who should take responsibility for its alleviation? This is the debate as extreme winter weather and infrastructure failures in the state have left at least two dozen people dead and millions without heat, water, and/or power. And it's not an unreasonable debate to have, with one glaring exception: lock-up.
Letter to Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman: Inspect 2 Protect “Creates a Barrier to Vital Support Networks”
Today, a group of advocates, organizations, and system-impacted individuals released a letter sent to Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Patrick O’Daniel, which highlights the negative impacts of the “Inspect 2 Protect” policy enacted at Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facilities last year. The letter—which received 29 signatures from local, state, and national groups—reiterates previous advocate requests for the policy to be reconsidered.
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Jay Jenkins of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition joined The Appeal Live to talk about Houston jail overcrowding and COVID-19.
As of Sunday, there were 8,889 people incarcerated inside Houston’s Harris County Jail, the largest facility of its kind in Texas. Of that number, 7,772—more than 87 percent—are being held pretrial. Nearly half of the people held in the jail, according to the county’s online jail population database, have been arrested on nonviolent charges.
A group of San Antonio Independent School District students called for the district to include more diverse student voices that accurately represent them in district decisions during a discussion on student rights Tuesday. The SAISD Student Coalition and Poder, the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel’s social justice caucus, held a Facebook Live discussion on student rights Tuesday, with experts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based nonprofit working to end inequities in state laws.
Finis Prendergast was expecting to have his day in court when COVID-19 came barreling into Harris County in March. The 42-year-old veteran has now spent 28 months awaiting trial at the county jail on an aggravated robbery charge; the court has reset his proceedings seven times during the pandemic.
On Opening Day of 87th Texas Legislative Session, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition Urges Lawmakers to Prioritize Justice Reform
Kicking off the opening day of Texas’s 87th Legislative Session, where state leadership will be contending with a billion-dollar budget shortfall, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) repeated their previous call for lawmakers to prioritize communities over corrections in an unprecedented year.
State of Texas: ‘The public needs access to its government’ — balancing health and transparency at the Capitol
Lawmakers from every corner of Texas are preparing to return to the State Capitol for the start of the 87th legislative session. The state still does not have an official plan for how the upcoming 87th Legislative Session will operate during the pandemic. But the Texas House of Representatives has outlined a framework for the opening ceremony, offering the first glimpse of how lawmakers will balance transparency with COVID-19 precautions.
Texas’ prisons and jails have been coronavirus hot spots throughout the pandemic. At least about 200 Texas inmates have died with COVID-19. So have more than 30 people who worked inside the state’s prisons — and countless others have spread the virus inside lockups and into the surrounding communities.