Conditions of Confinement

Harris County signals support for adding courts, public defenders

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez speaks at a press conference during the Gun Buyback campaign at Alexander Deussen Park on February 18, 2023 in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura for Houston Chronicle

Harris County Commissioners Court this week approved a package of public safety measures to support state legislation to create additional district courts, expand the county's holistic assistance response team program and look at enlarging the public defender's office. The measures are aimed at ongoing efforts to reduce the ongoing backlog in the county's criminal courts system and relieve persistent jail overcrowding.

Texas Senate passes bill to walk back Sandra Bland Act and investigate fewer jail deaths

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, who represents part of Tarrant County and much of the area south of the Metroplex, proposed the bill in March. Image via KERA

The Texas Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would eliminate a requirement to investigate all deaths in county jails, making deaths from presumed natural causes exempt. Advocates say if it becomes law, jails could escape accountability for medical neglect. The state has required an outside law enforcement agency to investigate all jail deaths since 2017, with the passage of the Sandra Bland Act.

“A way to throw kids away”: Texas’ troubled juvenile justice department is sending more children to adult prisons

Giddings State School, a Texas Juvenile Justice Department correctional facility, in Lee County on July 20, 2022. ( Credit: Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

Desperate to restore order within the walls of the five youth prisons it operates, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department has been asking judges to push more of its most troubled kids into the adult prison system.

Read the rest of this article from the Texas Tribune.

Change Can't Wait, Texas Is Overdue for Real Public Safety Solutions

Graphic via Texas Signal with Capitol, WTF TXLEGE, Move Texas and Signal logos

In the Lone Star State, a person’s path through the justice system is rarely guided by justice. It’s guided by politics. A young person of color fears when a police car follows them, knowing some police scour the streets looking for an excuse to turn on their red and blues. A person short on cash can’t make bail, calling the jail their temporary home – a rich person cuts a check and walks immediately.

Read the rest of this story from the Texas Signal.

Youth activists back Texas bill to close juvenile facilities, citing 'inhumane conditions'

Youths walk by the windows of the dining hall on their way to lunch Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006, at the Giddings State School in Giddings, Texas. Via BRETT COOMER/HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Youth justice advocates, including some Houstonians, are fighting in support of a bill that would see the closure of the state’s five juvenile detention centers, which they say have been beset by “dangerous and inhumane conditions.”

Read the rest of this article from the Houston Chronicle.

Bill would close youth prisons in Texas

Entry sign of Gainsville State School, one of Texas' remaining youth prisons. Photo via Paul Flahive / TPR

A bill filed Thursday would abolish the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and shutter the state's remaining five secure youth prisons by 2030. Representative James Talarico, flanked by advocates and formerly imprisoned youth, announced the push to close the agency because of the cycles of violence and abuse within its facilities.

Read the rest of this story from Texas Public Radio.

Subscribe to Conditions of Confinement