Texas Advocates for Justice

Mission Statement

Texas Advocates for Justice is on a mission to end the criminalization of our communities, to break down barriers to reentry from jail and prison in Texas, and to demolish the legacy of racism in the criminal justice system. TAJ unites formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, people of all faiths, and allies to build safe and resilient communities through organizing, leadership training, and connections to community resources.

Declaración de Misión

Los Defensores de Tejas por la Justicia está en una misión para poner fin a la criminalización de nuestras comunidades, para romper las barreras de la reentrada de la cárcel y las prisión en Texas, y para demoler el legado del racismo en el sistema de justicia criminal. TAJ une a los individuos que han estado encarcelados, sus familias, personas de todas las religiones, y aliados para construir comunidades seguras y resilientes a través de la organización, capacitación en liderazgo, y conexiones a recursos de la comunidad.

Our Work

We believe that people who have been directly affected by incarceration, together with their families, should lead the movement for change in Texas. That’s why we offer intensive community organizing trainings, designed to build on the expertise, experience, and powerful commitment of our members. Graduates of our training become members of our action network where we put our training into practice and advance our mission to end the criminalization of our communities.

Nuestro Trabajo

Creemos que las personas que han sido afectadas directamente por el encarcelamiento, junto con sus familias, deben liderar el movimiento para el cambio en Tejas. Es por eso que ofrecemos entrenamiento intensos de la organización comunitaria, diseñados para construir sobre el conocimiento, la experiencia y fuerte compromiso de nuestros miembros. Los graduados de nuestro entrenamiento se convierten en miembros de nuestra red de acción donde ponemos nuestra capacitación en práctica y avanzar en nuestra misión de poner fin a la criminalización de nuestras comunidades.

Upcoming Leadership Trainings

Próximo Entrenamientos de liderazgo


 

Related Posts

Feb 1, 2017
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Austin American-Statesman

Immigrants, former inmates team up against prisons, deportations

A coalition of more than 100 immigrants, activists and former inmates marched through downtown Austin on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to give them a break as they consider legislation aimed at punishing so-called sanctuary cities and rolling back “fair chance” hiring policies.

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The experiences of former jail and prison inmates are not always the same as those of immigrants who entered the United States illegally, but Sofia Casini, immigration programs coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, said there are many parallels to the challenges they face.

“There is a (cross section) between the same communities who are being exploited and oppressed for profit and for gain from these private prison corporations, and from those who would wish to push us down through these bills in the legislature,” Casini said.

Lewis Conway Jr., a towering man who spent eight years in prison and another 12 on probation shouted into a megaphone as the crowd rumbled through downtown behind a booming drum line.

“Make Some noise for no more prisons, no more deportations, no more ICE, no more police brutality, no more drug wars in our community,” he said.

Conway now serves as a criminal justice program associate for Grassroots Leadership, a group that seeks an end to mass incarceration, deportation and privately run prisons. He called the prison system a social control mechanism.

“Many of the members of our community are locked in that jail, and they keep making excuses for keeping them locked up. But we’re not going to accept any more excuses,” Conway said. “The same excuses they made for those jails they made for slavery. The same excuses they made for why black lives don’t matter (are) why that jail exists.”

Melvin Halsey, a Navy veteran with the Texas Advocates for Justice said he wants to promote unity between the LBGT community, immigrants and the formerly incarcerated, and band together against the challenges the groups face.

Halsey, who said he suffers from mental health issues and has been incarcerated four times for offenses related to drugs and alcohol, said he is looking for a chance to be a good father and grandfather.

“There are so many of us who are formerly incarcerated who need a job, who need housing, who need to take care of our children and grandchildren,” Halsey said. “To kill that would just be devastating to a lot of us.” Read more about Immigrants, former inmates team up against prisons, deportations

200+ individuals from across Texas impacted by incarceration and deportation to march and rally at Capitol

WHAT: Statewide #kNOwMORE2017 Advocacy Day

WHEN: February 1st, series of events takes place between 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

VISUALS: 200 marchers lift off, speakers in front of the jail, rally speakers and art installation at the Capitol

WHO: Led by Texas Advocates for Justice, participating organizations will include: Read more about 200+ individuals from across Texas impacted by incarceration and deportation to march and rally at Capitol

As the legislature and governor attack local communities, those most impacted by incarceration and deportation announce action at the Texas Capitol

WHAT: Press conference detailing plans for Feb. 1st statewide #kNOwMORE2017 Advocacy Day

WHO: Formerly incarcerated or deported individuals and their families and advocates

WHEN: Monday, January 30th, at 9:00 a.m. Read more about As the legislature and governor attack local communities, those most impacted by incarceration and deportation announce action at the Texas Capitol

What we're fighting for at the Texas Legislature

Today marks the first day of the 85th Texas Legislature, and we're gearing up for a fight. We are ready to stand with those who have felt the devastation of our mass incarceration crisis first hand. We will fight to protect immigrants and keep families together. And, on February 1, 2017 criminal justice and immigration groups from around the state will converge in Austin for a march, rally, art exhbit and visits to legislators to speak boldly about what we are fighting for. We hope that you'll join usRead more about What we're fighting for at the Texas Legislature

Jan 7, 2017
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The Huntsville Item

Rules helping ex-cons find work are now targeted

The state's capital last spring became the first city in the South to stop private employers from looking into an applicant's criminal past before a job offer is on the table.

The rule followed a similar measure for government workers and won support from advocates who called it a step toward restoring citizenship, and lowering unemployment, among ex-convicts.

But the rule and similar "ban the box" laws, which seek to erase criminal history questions from job applications, are taking criticism. A Republican lawmaker wants to stop Texas cities from enacting them, wiping Austin’s off the books.

Rep. Paul Workman, of Travis County, author of House Bill 577, cited several reasons to stop the rules, including the binds they slap on business people screening would-be employees.

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But critics of Workman's bill note that 1 in 3 adults in Texas has a criminal history — a factor that screens out many applicants automatically and disproportionately affects people of color.

Unemployment among parolees has been measured at more than 51 percent, according to the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law.

A 2011 survey of parolees and former inmates in Austin and Travis County found that more than three-quarters said their convictions were the biggest barrier to reentering society.

“Even with a ban-the-box ordinance, the employer is under no obligation to hire the person. What they’re trying to do is provide a fair shot," said Ed Sills, communications director of the Texas AFL-CIO.

Jorge Renaud knows what it’s like to look for a job with a record. Now an organizer for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based civil rights group, Renaud served 25 years for robbery. He later earned a graduate degree in social work.

“I got out and had difficulty finding employment and housing,” said Renaud, 60. “People would throw my application off the top of the pile. I appreciated people who would sit down and say, ‘Tell me what happened.’"

"If you get to know me," he said, "you’ll see that I’m a reasonable guy.” Read more about Rules helping ex-cons find work are now targeted

Dec 13, 2016
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KXAN

Proposed bill would ban Texas cities from ‘fair chance’ hiring ordinances

Texas lawmaker Rep. Paul Workman introduced bill HB 577 that wants to ban local governments, like the city of Austin, from forcing private employers in “Ban the Box” and “Fair Chance” hiring ordinances.

Back in March, the city council voted to delay background checks until a potential employee was given a hire-offer. The goal was to allow people with criminal history abetter chance at finding jobs.

Jorge Renaud, the Organizer for Texas advocates for justice, says the new proposed bill would hurt people like him who needed to get back into the workforce.

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Some, however, think ordinances like Austin’s create an undue burden on local businesses. The Texas Association of Business’ Vice-President of Governmental affairs, Cathy Dewitt says, employers aren’t getting the full picture of who they’re talking to when ordinances like the fair-chance one are put in place.

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She argues that if local governments want to use hiring practices like “Ban the Box” or “Fair-Chance” they can, but it infringes too much on private businesses. “The city of Austin is the only one that has extended it to the private employers, and how they’ve done so, almost creates a protected class for criminals, while we do want to help them, in creating a protective class, can be considered unfair.”

Renaud says, “All those individuals, you’re going to deny them the opportunity, the real opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with a potential employer, we’re going to say no because of that history" Read more about Proposed bill would ban Texas cities from ‘fair chance’ hiring ordinances

Incoming sheriff can tackle criminal justice reform while stopping deportations

By Alejandro Caceres and Jorge Antonio Renaud

A recent Statesman editorial (Wanted: Sheriff who keeps Austin out of Legislature crosshairs, Sept. 24) about the race for Travis County Sheriff suggested that we cannot have both criminal justice reforms and an end to deportations in Travis County. We couldn’t disagree more. We see everyday why you cannot stack a broken immigration system on top of a broken criminal justice system and expect a more just world. Read more about Incoming sheriff can tackle criminal justice reform while stopping deportations

Sep 27, 2016
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The Daily Texan

Activists gather to address additional funds for Travis County Jail

Criminal justice advocates gathered Friday at the Travis County Commissioner’s Court to call on officials to scale back the $2.4 million in funding allotted to hiring 36 additional correctional officers for the county jail.

Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting mass incarceration, led a press conference at the commissioner’s court where advocates emphasized the need to fund programs that could potentially keep people out of jail.

“Our goal here today is to demand that before voting to allocate more resources to jail staff, that the county commissioners and other local policy-makers prioritize funding community-based services that address the root causes of mass incarceration in our community,” Grassroots Leadership member Jorge Renaud said. Read more about Activists gather to address additional funds for Travis County Jail

Sep 23, 2016
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Austin American-Statesman

Criminal justice activists want Travis County to lower jail population

“Our jails aren’t treatment centers, but when we look at the population of our jails, the vast majority of them have substance abuse issues, mental health issues. These are things that we as citizens of Austin and Travis County need to prioritize our tax dollars on effecting in the community by prevention, by treatment,” said Reggie Smith, Texas Advocates for Justice representative. “This is something that is being overlooked so we’re, by default, utilizing our jails as treatment centers.” Read more about Criminal justice activists want Travis County to lower jail population

Formerly incarcerated people, criminal justice reform advocates call on Travis County to lower jail population, address mass incarceration crisis

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Today, formerly incarcerated people, their loved ones, and criminal justice reform advocates called on the Travis County Commissioners Court to address rising incarceration rates at the Travis County Jail.   Read more about Formerly incarcerated people, criminal justice reform advocates call on Travis County to lower jail population, address mass incarceration crisis

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