Texas Advocates for Justice


WATCH: This is TAJ


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.

Our Work

Texas Advocates for Justice is a community organizing and base-building program of Grassroots Leadership that unites individuals and families who are directly impacted by mass incarceration and criminalization in Texas. We believe no true, long-lasting change in the way our society deals with incarceration will be altered unless that change effort is led by those whose lives and communities have been directly impacted. We use our personal stories and direct experience with incarceration to build power and lead campaigns to transform the criminal justice system and build safe and healthy communities.


Statewide Coordinator, Annette Price: aprice@grassrootsleadership.org
Houston Organizer, Dianna Williams, dwilliams@grassrootsleadership.org


Related Posts

Jan 7, 2017
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.


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.” [node:read-more:link]

Dec 13, 2016

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.


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.


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" [node:read-more:link]

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. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 27, 2016
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. [node:read-more:link]

Sep 23, 2016
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.” [node:read-more:link]

FRIDAY: Formerly incarcerated people, criminal justice reform advocates to call on Travis County to lower jail population

WHAT: Press conference and testimony in front of Travis County Commissioners Court

WHO: Texas Advocates for Justice, formerly incarcerated residents, and criminal justice reform advocates

WHEN:  Friday, September 23rd — Press conference at 8:30 a.m. and testimony begins at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Travis County Commissioners Court, 700 Lavaca St., Austin, TX, 78701. [node:read-more:link]

Welcome Latasha Taylor, our new Mental Health Organizer!

We are happy to welcome Latasha Taylor to the Grassroots Leadership Criminal Justice team as our new Mental Health Organizer!  Through a two-year Peer Policy Fellowship from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Latasha will be supporting the work of the Justice and Mental Health Coalition and Texas Advocates for Justice. [node:read-more:link]

Help fund a crucial training in Austin, Texas!

We need your help! Grassroots Leadership needs to raise $12,000 before July 15th to fund our upcoming Texas Advocates for Justice organizing training in Austin.


Our goal is to bring together 30 formerly incarcerated people — Austin community members who have been locked up in jails, prisons, or immigrant detention centers — and their loved ones to be leaders in the movement to end mass criminalization in Texas.  [node:read-more:link]

May 24, 2016
The Establishment

Inside The Fight To Protect Face-To-Face Visitation For Prisoners

When you’re behind bars, “there’s something psychologically uplifting about knowing someone is coming to visit you,” Jorge Renaud explained.

Renaud is an organizer with Grassroots Leadership and Texas Advocates for Justice who spoke with me by phone from Austin, Texas. He told me that unless you’ve been incarcerated, you can’t understand the emotional impact of a visit from a friend or loved one. His voice vibrated with emotion as he recalled those desperately needed visits, his tone expressing more than words could say. [node:read-more:link]