With an incarcerated population of approximately 150,000, Texas locks up more people than any other state. Mass incarceration in Texas is fueled and perpetuated by the over-incarceration of minority and impoverished populations at early stages of the criminal justice system and inhumane conditions of confinement that deprive inmates of meaningful mental healthcare and rehabilitative opportunities during their term of imprisonment.
Over the last 25 years, TCRP has established itself as a leader in litigating to achieve criminal justice reform in Texas.
Going forward, TCRP will spearhead criminal justice reform in Texas via a program focused on dismantling the underlying causes and effects of mass incarceration through strategic litigation targeted at reforming identifiable institutional practices and conditions that perpetuate mass incarceration at both the front and back end of the criminal justice system.
In Texas, an estimated 30 percent of jail inmates have one or more serious mental illnesses. County officials fail to adequately respond to these needs, both by over-incarcerating individuals with mental illness during the pretrial process. This year, we brought three lawsuits on behalf of clients whose family members committed suicide in custody in Harris, Travis, and Ochiltree County.
Since 1998, twenty individuals have died in Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison’s due to severe heat related issues due to lack of air conditioning. In 2017, Judge Keith P. Ellison issued “a searing 100-page rebuke of the Texas prison system” which ordered state officials to to draft a plan within 15 days to cool the living spaces to no more than 88 degrees for vulnerable inmates in the Wallace Pack Unit near Houston.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas awarded a favorable settlement for the family of Amber May, who died by suicide in the Ochiltree County Jail due to poor training, screening, monitoring, and oversight. In addition to compensating the family for their loss, TCRP and the University of Texas Civil Rights Clinic’s settlement requires heightened mental health screening at booking, improved monitoring of inmates, and the modification of cell conditions.
TCRP aims to end the brutal heat conditions faced by inmates in Texas’ prisons. Since 1998, 22 people have died as a result of indoor weather conditions at 15 Texas prisons. In partnership with Edwards Law, we fought to end the sweltering heat conditions.