Dallas Feels Heat for School to Prison Pipeline

The “school to prison pipeline” has become a popular phrase lately, but it isn’t just a hot tagline devoid of meaning. Kids who are criminalized at a young age are far more likely to be a fixture in the criminal justice system when they get older. This “pipeline” from school to prison is no more apparent than in Dallas Public Schools, where the Dallas County truancy courts prosecuted 36,000 cases last year alone. It’s this practice—of cuffing, prosecuting, and fining kids at an alarming rate—that has Dallas facing a potential civil rights lawsuit. [Read more…]

Houston Police Make Mental Health Improvements

In 2007, change swept the Houston Police Department and the way they handled the mentally ill. Change came after two people with schizophrenia were shot and killed by police only two months apart. In the past 5 years, the changes that were made have proven effective—effective in getting the mentally ill the help they need and improving police relations with them. Houston’s efforts are being held up as an example across the country and they certainly deserve it. [Read more…]

TX Federal Judge Makes Fiery, Discriminatory Comments

Federal Judge Edith Jones is facing ethics complaints after a speaking engagement in which she said, among other things, that racial minorities are “more violent” than whites and that claims of racial bias in death penalty cases are usually nothing more than “red herrings”. The judge, who sits on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes TX jurisdiction) is said to have violated several canons in the code of conduct for federal judges. [Read more…]

Bill to Require Prosecutor Evidence Training

When you are facing criminal charges, the case against you  likely contains details that are crucial to you building a successful defense. In other words, you can’t prepare for battle without knowing what the other side is armed with. Governor Rick Perry now has a chance to sign a bill that would make it easier for you to know the prosecutor’s hand—a bill that is crucial in preventing wrongful convictions and even prosecutor misconduct. [Read more…]

Police Would Have You Think Drones Are No Threat

Numerous police agencies across the country are salivating at the opportunity to have a new militaristic toy to add to their arsenals. The hot item right now is the drone and several departments within Texas have them. A recent report in the Star Telegram, however, seems to attempt to paint the eyes-in-the-sky as harmless remote-controlled helpers rather than anything that could be potentially used to violate privacy rights. [Read more…]

Texas Justice Calls for Criminal Justice Reforms

“If the remedy is unaffordable, justice is denied.”

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson “held court” in front of a joint session of the state Legislature last week and indicated major changes are needed in the Texas justice system. Namely, he said, justice is currently only afforded to those who can afford it. He also questioned the criminalization of school children and how the state plans to deal with wrongful convictions. [Read more…]

Texas Lawmakers Consider Lessening Some Criminal Penalties

The use of alternative courts have reduced Texas’ dependence on prisons, so much so that the state could stand to shut down three prisons this legislative session—unheard of for one of the most incarcerated states in the most incarcerated nation in the world. But experts are now calling on lawmakers to slow the flow of inmates into the system in another way, by reducing the penalties for some nonviolent and relatively common offenses. [Read more…]

Dallas Cops Now Required to Get Written Consent for Searches

When a cop doesn’t have a warrant or exigent circumstances (circumstances that would provide for the destruction of evidence or commission of a crime), he cannot search your property without your consent. While this seems simple, many people don’t understand that if a cop asks, “Mind if I search your car?”, they can say no. Now, the city of Dallas is going to make the process of consent searches more sound by requiring cops to get written or recorded consent every time. [Read more…]

DA Pushes Texas Racial Justice Act

In the spirit of similar laws out of North Carolina and Kentucky, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins plans on advocating for a Racial Justice Act in the state of Texas. The law would give convicted criminals a route to appeal their case on the grounds that they were convicted, in part, due to racism. [Read more…]

State Jails Failing Offenders

The Texas state jail system was designed in the mid-nineties to offer a place between county lock-ups and state prison, somewhere to send low-level offenders without the risk of institutionalizing them for life, a place for them to get treatment and rehabilitation. But, the expensive middle-ground of incarceration is failing. [Read more…]