While the Statewide Leadership Council is supportive of various policies that would transform policing, reduce mass incarceration, and improve reentry practices, the 3 policies below are our priorities for Texas’ 2023 legislative session.
Nearly 120,000 people are in Texas prisons. Around 20,000 are currently listed as “in the parole review process.”
People returning to our communities must have the supports needed to live safe, stable, and successful lives.
That starts with giving people earlier access to programming – like substance use treatment and cognitive intervention – while they’re still behind bars. Otherwise, the years between parole reviews are wasted opportunities to rehabilitate individuals.
Additionally, Texas must shift the focus of parole reviews to factors an applicant can control – meaning, people should be evaluated on their progress in rehabilitative programs, not static factors like the nature of the crime.
Under Texas’ current parole guidelines, the Board of Pardons and Paroles is directed during the parole review process to contact the prosecuting attorney, review the person’s criminal record, and evaluate prison disciplinary records. The Board is not able to evaluate an individual’s progress in certain rehabilitative programs when determining parole because only the Board can place people in those programs – which, under current practice, comes after a person’s parole review.
The state should shift toward a system of providing rehabilitative services prior to parole review. More specifically, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice should give people an individualized treatment plan and have them complete pre-release and rehabilitative services before their review. Then, the Parole Board should base each person’s review on their success in completing that programming.
Click on the links for videos about parole reform:
- The SLC’s introduction to parole reform [38 minutes]: Click here
- SLC members’ experiences with parole, and strategies for common-sense parole reform [44 minutes]: Click here
CLEAN SLATE AND NEW WINGS
People with past involvement in the criminal legal system face immense challenges finding stable housing, getting a job, and accessing other services due to their criminal record.
Texas should enact “Clean Slate” legislation to allow more people to clear their records for misdemeanor offenses.
Specifically, Clean Slate legislation would:
- Automate nondisclosure for eligible people.
- Remove the ability of 33 state agencies to view people’s records.
Texas should also take a further step and pass “New Wings” legislation to expand record-clearing to more offenses.
Specifically, New Wings legislation would:
- Expand eligibility for record sealing to all people who have fully discharged their sentences and remained crime-free for up to 10 years (the length depending on the original conviction).
- Shorten the waiting periods for nondisclosures.
The SLC is a member of Clean Slate Texas coalition, which is dedicated to expanding access to record clearing. Click here for the Clean Slate Texas website!
And click here for a video of the SLC and leaders in the Clean Slate movement discussing the background of Clean Slate legislation and what that policy could look like in Texas [1 hour, 5 minutes].
Lastly, click here for testimony by SLC members about “New Wings” legislation during Texas’ 2021 legislative session.
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT IN TEXAS PRISONS: Better Preparation for Disasters
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates not only the largest prison system in any state, but also one of the largest in the world. Preparing such a large system for an emergency requires adequate planning mechanisms – but those are not in place.
This was evident during Texas’ winter freeze in 2021, as well as during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas must ensure that TDCJ has a proper emergency management plan in place before another disaster strikes.
The state should create an advisory board of subject matter experts, correctional staff, and system-impacted people. This group can inform new TDCJ policies that protect incarcerated people against issues like insufficient hygiene supplies and protective equipment, extended lockdowns, and gaps in proper healthcare.
It is critical that incarcerated people have the support and supplies needed to make it through declared disasters without experiencing inadequate or dangerous conditions.
SLC Coordinator Maggie Luna joined a webinar discussing the importance of emergency management; watch the video here [51 minutes].