Criminal Justice

Marijuana
Katherine Hitt via Flickr

The state's top leaders are reminding prosecutors that marijuana is still illegal in Texas.

The letter from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Attorney General Ken Paxton comes after district attorneys in major cities said they have effectively stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana possession cases since House Bill 1325 went into effect on June 10.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County is one step closer to finalizing its formation of a public defender office for low-income defendants charged with certain felonies and misdemeanors. The Travis County Commissioners Court today OK’d the structure of the office’s seven-member oversight board, which will include attorneys, criminal justice advocates and former judges.

Stephanie Tacy/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas news outlets often report on death penalty stories, given that the state leads the nation in prisoner executions. But rarely do reports tell the stories of women on death row. Those women are housed in a prison in Gatesville, and as I wait for the guards to bring over inmate Linda Carty, I notice the room is very different from the crammed spaces where I’ve interviewed men on death row. There’s still glass separating us, but this room is spacious and well-lit.

Via Facebook

Longtime Austin publisher and civil rights activist Akwasi Evans has died. He was 71.

"Akwasi had a wonderful spirit. He was a fighter," said Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, adding that Evans had been dealing with health issues. "He worked really hard to make sure that the East Austin African American community was represented and that it had a significant role in the development of Austin. He was one-of-a-kind and will be sorely missed."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

A new study shows a high rate of incarceration for fine-only offenses in Texas, particularly in Travis County.

The study from social justice advocacy nonprofit Texas Appleseed found more than 30,000 jail bookings for class C misdemeanors across 11 Texas counties in 2017. Those are offenses that are typically punishable by a citation of up to $500 – without required jail time. 

Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has put a hefty $1 billion price tag on the proposed installation of air conditioning in all of its uncooled prisons. But some lawmakers eyed the cost with skepticism Thursday as the department has a history of greatly overestimating cooling costs.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

Seven out of 10 driver's license suspensions in Texas are due to drivers' inability to pay fees and surcharges from courts and the Texas Department of Public Safety, according to a new study from nonprofits Texas Appleseed and Texas Fair Defense Project.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The effort to create a public defenders office in Travis County isn't dead after all.

At its board meeting this morning, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission OK'd a move to waive a requirement for a letter expressing interest in a $15-million grant to establish a public defender office in Travis County for adult felony and misdemeanor cases – something the county has tried and failed to do for decades.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

About 20 young people sit across from one another in two teams in a community room at CitySquare Opportunity Center in South Dallas. Deontra Wade walks around the room with notecards in hand and asks everyone about themselves, using his best Steve Harvey voice.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Since 2007, Houston Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman – and others – have tried in vain to get just five words into Texas' hate crimes law: "or gender identity or expression."

Mengwen Cao/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The federal prison inmate population is about 183,000. That could be cut by almost a third in the course of one year, if lawmakers on Capitol Hill succeed in passing a new law. Monday, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn acting as majority whip – the number two leader in the Senate – delivered an impassioned speech calling for passage of the First Step Act. It's a first step toward major criminal justice reform.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT

A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit is suing the Texas Department of Public Safety over its automatic driver license-suspension program. The suit alleges the state's Driver Responsibility Program has unconstitutionally suspended 1.4 million Texans' licenses for failure to pay fines.

Bob Jagendorf/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

It's something you don't hear often in the news: President Donald Trump is endorsing a measure that has the support of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. This rare occasion for bipartisanship represents what some consider the biggest overhaul to the nation's criminal justice system in recent memory.

Shaila Dewaun is national criminal justice editor for The New York Times. She says the bill would help people leaving prison with reentry into the outside world, including providing money for education and treatment programs.

Austin Price/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas has long had a “tough on crime” reputation, and the numbers back that up.

Texas is seventh in the nation when it comes to its incarceration rate: 891 out of every 100,000 people are in lockup.  And it has long led in number of executions, too. Since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, Texas has executed more than 550 inmates, including two this week.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Hundreds of community activists from across Texas gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Tuesday to call on Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation to overhaul the criminal justice system here.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the Honorable Greg Mathis, former Superior Court judge for Michigan's 36th District and host of Judge Mathis.

Mathis talks about manhood, his election as the youngest judge in Michigan's history and the 19th season of his court-based reality show.

Austin Price/KUT

From Texas Standard.

Arnold Darby, a 69-year-old inmate at Huntsville's Goree Unit, speaks with the Texas Standard about his craft as a bootmaker. While in prison, he has made boots for people all across the state, including politicians and athletes.

Flickr/Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Some people are convinced that hypnosis is real: they’ve seen it done, they’ve experienced being hypnotized. But is it science? Is it so reliable that we should be able to use it to help make life or death decisions? Two death row inmates have had their sentences delayed as they make the case that they were convicted on the basis of evidence obtained through hypnosis. They say – and other states would agree – that amounts to junk science.

"True Conviction" is coming to Independent Lens on PBS.

From Texas Standard.

Christopher Scott was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 for capital murder. He spent more than a dozen years behind bars before another man confessed to the crime and Scott was declared innocent. With his second chance at freedom, Scott teamed up with two other exonerated Texans to form a Dallas detective agency of sorts to help others who have been wrongfully convicted.

Austin Price for KUT

Incarcerated women in Texas have access to fewer educational and vocational programs compared to incarcerated men, a new study finds.

The study, released Tuesday by the local nonprofit Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, is the second of a two-part study that looks into the increasing numbers of incarcerated women.

Austin Price / KUT

From Texas Standard.

Texas is re-upping a request to “opt in” to a federal law that would speed up the execution appeals process in the state, potentially leading to quicker executions.

Pixabay/Public Domain

From Texas Standard.

In a Tarrant County courtroom in 2014, Terry Lee Morris stood before State District Judge George Gallagher. Morris was on trial for soliciting sex from a minor, a charge he was eventually convicted of. When he wouldn’t respond to Judge Gallagher’s questions, the judge instructed the bailiff to attach stun belts to Morris’ legs. But as Morris failed to answer questions to Judge Gallagher’s satisfaction, the judge instructed the bailiff to send 50,000 volts to him. He did that three times.

Bob Jagendorf/Flickr

From Texas Standard.

A woman who once oversaw the youthful offenders program at a Texas prison in Brazoria alleges that “a culture of cover-up” exists at the state’s Department of Criminal Justice, or TDCJ. The would-be whistleblower told Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News that Texas teens who are placed in the program are in danger, because of a cycle of abuse. The concerns detailed by former program supervisor Dominique Mitchell have been ignored and reporting of incidents discouraged, according to Mitchell.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Twenty-three percent of the students in Fort Worth ISD are black. But according to a recent report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 62 percent of all girls suspended in the district last school year were African-American. Fort Worth ISD administrators are looking into why this is happening in their district.

Flickr/Roy Luck (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Innocent until proven guilty is a core principle of the U.S. legal system. But what happens when you’re no longer considered guilty, but have not yet proven innocent? That’s just one factor in a complicated case in Houston.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Several Texas state senators on Tuesday expressed support for the closure of at least some of the state’s remaining youth lockups.

The lawmakers' comments, made at a Senate Finance Committee hearing, came as the Texas Juvenile Justice Department is entangled in a sexual abuse scandal that has led to a 10-year prison sentence for one guard and the arrest of three women at the Gainesville State School.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

After almost a year of searching, Annette Price is settling into her new apartment in North Central Austin. She lives alone in the one-bedroom unit with her dog, Candy, but she says she doesn’t feel completely at home.

Her apartment complex is one of the few places in Austin where the 52-year-old could get approved for housing, because about 30 years ago, she was convicted of murder.

Since 1926, Americans have recognized black history annually – first as Negro History Week and later as Black History Month. What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied – or even documented – when the tradition began. Although African-Americans have been in this country since colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a somewhat respectable presence in history books.

Jon Shapley for KUT

In the year since Texas lawmakers mandated random selection of grand jurors in place of the controversial “key man” system, grand juries in Travis County have become less racially diverse.

Rieseblogger/Pixabay (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

President Obama has commuted the sentences of more federal inmates than the last ten presidents combined. Many of those who saw their sentence shortened are from Texas, mostly doing time on drug-related charges. They've all accepted the Obama administration's offer – until now.

At at a low-security prison in Beaumont, one inmate said no.

 


Pages