Criminal Justice

Apr 24, 2018
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Community Impact News

After one year, fair chance hiring ordinance leaves room for improvement

"Lewis Conway Jr., criminal justice organizer at the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, said that this campaign has been inadequate.

He pointed to the video, which was posted on YouTube in February 2017 and as of April 2 had been viewed 212 times.

Conway, who served eight years in prison and 12 on parole for voluntary manslaughter, campaigned on behalf of the ordinance.

'As a formerly incarcerated person, employment was probably the most important thing in my life, especially when it’s a condition of parole,' he said.

...“This [ordinance] is an opportunity to put people back into the cycle of life,” Conway said." Read more about After one year, fair chance hiring ordinance leaves room for improvement

I took a tour of the Harris County Jail Mental Health Unit. Here’s what I found.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) operates the nation's fourth-largest jail, with an inmate population approaching 9,000. (Jail Mental Health Initiatives)

     At Grassroots Leadership, we advocate and organize against private prison, detention centers and behavioral health treatment centers.  Diverting those with mental health concerns from the criminal justice system into community treatment programs. Ultimately, those with mental health issues are not diverted but instead forced into a failed criminal and mental health system — especially in Houston, Texas. Read more about I took a tour of the Harris County Jail Mental Health Unit. Here’s what I found.

Sep 12, 2017
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Texas Observer

The Road to Huntsville by Jorge Antonio Renaud

Jorge Renaud, community organizer with the Texas Advocates for Justice at Grassroots, published an essay in the Texas Observer titled "The Road to Huntsville" on his experience riding "chain buses" over fifteen times to the Huntsville prison. Renaud writes with profundity and clarity on the absurd treatment of prisoners by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the resilience he claimed for his own transformation. "There is no mystery or romance to prison, not to the iron or stink or violent hopelessness that seeps into its very air, and certainly not to the means of transport by which people arrive or are transferred between the 110 or so TDCJ units... Still, despite all its cruelties, the 1,400-mile 'bus therapy' meant to punish me had the opposite effect. I was away from cages and cacophony when on the chain, and I always accepted the discomfort of bus rides as a welcome respite from the numbing monotony of prison, the rocking bus and green countryside rejuvenating my spirit. Transformation finds few footholds in steel. Life in a cage too often leads to self-pity, not self-improvement. People who are incarcerated understand and struggle with those truths. We seek spaces where the spirit does not recoil: a few moments in a library, a recreation yard quieted by the rain. For me it was the road; the fact that my wrists were bound by iron made little difference. Read more about The Road to Huntsville by Jorge Antonio Renaud"
Nov 25, 2014
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Austin-American Statesman

Commentary: Closing state jails should be on Legislature’s agenda

Jailing at the rates that Texas does has had devastating social and economic effects for those incarcerated, who are disproportionately poor people of color, and their communities. But our addiction to incarceration affects us all. Texas taxpayers foot the bill at a cost of nearly $3 billion annually spent on state jails and prisons, money that could otherwise be invested in education and other front-end programs that give people opportunities to avoid interaction with the criminal justice system. Read more about Commentary: Closing state jails should be on Legislature’s agenda

Nov 7, 2014
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The Austin Chronicle

Through a Glass, Darkly: County jail visitation now video-only

"We're being careful to say there's not a direct correlation, but it certainly hasn't decreased violence," says Grassroots Lead­er­ship's Kymberlie Quong Charles, who argues that there's a necessary human, physical element in face-to-face interactions. "Even through Plexiglas, it allows you to see the color of [an inmate's] skin, or other physical things with their bodies," she adds. "It's an accountability thing, and lets people on the outside get some read on the physical condition of a loved one. If there are concerns, it gives people on the outside a tool." Read more about Through a Glass, Darkly: County jail visitation now video-only

Take action: Pressure mounts at Travis County Jail to stop "unconstitutional eavesdropping"

Earlier this month, we shared our petition to stop eavesdropping on prisoners at the Travis County Jail, where in-person visits have been replaced by a for-profit video conferencing service. 

Now, Jazmine Ulloa with the Austin-American Statesman has published the story, "Are there privacy flaws in inmate call systems?", sounding the alarm on phone calls between prisoners and their lawyers being unlawfully recorded at the Travis County Jail and Securus, the private company that's cashing in on it. Our friends at Texas Civil Rights Project and the Prison Justice League have filed suit. 

Read more about Take action: Pressure mounts at Travis County Jail to stop "unconstitutional eavesdropping"

Jun 22, 2014
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The Rag Blog

Alice Embree : Grassroots Leadership takes on the prison profiteers

Grassroots Leadership says that Texas is “ground zero” with “more incarcerated people, immigration detention beds, and for-profit prisons than any other state.” That is why the national organization, founded in 1980 by activist and musician Si Kahn, moved its program operations to Austin in 2012.

I spoke with Executive Director Bob Libal about Grassroots Leadership and the group’s current organizing efforts in Travis County, Texas, and nationally. They have a solid track record of success. They helped shut down the notoriously bad Dawson State Jail, end the immigrant family detention at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, and stop the expansion of the private prison industry. They also have an ambitious agenda for the future. Read more about Alice Embree : Grassroots Leadership takes on the prison profiteers

Grassroots Leadership honors Robert H. King of the Angola 3

Last Friday, Grassroots Leadership board and staff spent the evening with Robert H. King, the sole freed member of the Angola 3. We are so profoundly thankful for the opportunity to sit with King as he shared his experience as a political prisoner for 31 years, and to honor him for modeling resilience and hope in the service of social justice.

King, alongside fellow Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, spent 29 years in solitary confinement in the Louisiana Angola Prison after the 1972 killing of a prison guard, despite the absence of any physical evidence linking them to the murder. In truth, the Angola 3 were targeted for their activism and organizing against injustice inside the prison.

Read more about Grassroots Leadership honors Robert H. King of the Angola 3

Humpday Hall of Shame: Private Prison Companies Buying “Impartial” Accreditation Agency … Again

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but every time a private prison company pops up as a top sponsor of the largest “impartial” accrediting association in the world, we are. This time not one but eight private prison and private correctional healthcare companies, each with a history of human rights violations, are the top sponsors of the American Correctional Association’s 144th Congress of Corrections conference.

Among them are Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, Management and Training Corporation, Corizon, Wexford Health, MHM Correctional Services, Centurion, and Naphcare.

Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Private Prison Companies Buying “Impartial” Accreditation Agency … Again

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