Every week, people in and around Houston (one of the largest cities in the US, with over 7 million people in the metro area) turn on their computers or televisions—and see bias and misinformation about the criminal legal system. It’s not just COPS and Law & Order, either. As TCJE’s recent research has found, false narratives run rampant in Houston-area TV news, especially English-language stations. And one of the worst offenders when it comes to misinformation about bond reform is “Breaking Bond,” a series on FOX 26 (KRIV-TV).
Pretrial & Defense
This week, TCJE released a report I co-authored on media bias in local TV stations’ coverage of bond reform. When I first began working on this project, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Attempting to methodically analyze media coverage was a daunting task, and many key details needed to be defined. Which forms of media would we analyze? How would we determine bias? Which articles should be included or excluded?
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.
“It’s just a messed up system. It makes me feel like…I’m not a free American citizen.” –George*
Until now in this series, I’ve been focusing on the time that people unjustly spend in pretrial detention. Interviews with people like Lance* and George* (introduced in previous blog posts here and here) have shown first-hand the cruelty of present jail conditions and the confusion with which cases are reset and delayed.
Jail isn’t a great place. But it’s not supposed to be, right? It’s a “bad” place for “bad” people. That’s okay then; jails are what they’re supposed to be.
Dissecting the criminal justice system in a classroom always felt comfortably analytical. Built on a foundation of logic and reason with the end goal of order and peace, the system made sense to me. It seemed to be a desirable and right institution in a very chaotic and wrong world. But this sheen of reasonability hides the system’s creativity; its loopholes and bureaucracy work like snares against those whose wallets are too thin to cut themselves free. The webs of the system take years to unravel and understand, let alone remediate.
Each courtroom in the United States houses an American flag. When judges bruise their benches with gavels, it happens under the watch of our stripes and stars. Like all the other neighbors in my sleepy Iowa town, naivety and the protection of middle-class suburbia let me grow up believing that the threads of our flag are woven with liberty and justice. The ubiquitous message throughout my schooling and in my home was that I didn’t ever have to worry about jail. It was for “bad people” who did “bad things” and no one else.
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: