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.
Conditions of Confinement
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.
As of May 27, 2020, nearly 4,500 incarcerated people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Texas, nearly 12 times the number of cases this time one month ago. Thus far, 36 incarcerated people have died and at least five officers have lost their lives. Tens of thousands of men and women have been on lockdown in their cells or dorms for a month or more. There appears to be little end in sight.
The warnings and recommendations of health experts indicate that Harris County is not doing enough to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in its jail. A variety of local health experts have emphasized that jails are particularly vulnerable to an outbreak of COVID-19, as they contain optimal conditions for the spread of infectious disease. Holding thousands of people in close quarters, jails are unable to comply with CDC recommendations like social distancing and hand washing.
March 16, 2020
The Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Texas Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711
Mitigating Disaster: Urgent and Just Responses to COVID-19 in the Texas Justice System
Dear Governor Abbott:
Last updated: August 29, 2019
It’s Sine Die – the last day of legislative session – and TCJC is thrilled that so many positive bills have progressed to the Governor’s desk. A few have already become law!
The Governor now has a 20-day period to review the bills and either sign them into law, let them pass into law without his signature, or veto them.
As I visited several classrooms of students participating in the Gang Renouncement and Disassociation (GRAD) process at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, Texas, I couldn’t help but remember my time in the same program at the Ramsey Unit in Rosharon, Texas, in 2010. I shared those experiences with the men in Ellis and told them how much of an impact my cognitive intervention teacher, Ms. Kathy Gant, had had on my life.