The mission of the Texas Inmate Families Association is to break the cycle of incarceration in Texas by strengthening families through organizing, support, education, and advocacy.
Overreliance on incarceration devastates Texas families and communities. The hardships people in prison face are often the same challenges experienced by their loved ones. TIFA calls for the end to harsh and punitive responses to the social and economic problems that drive crime, as well as rehabilitative programs for those who are incarcerated.
TIFA was founded in 1996 as a result of a conversation between two brothers – one in the free world and the other in prison. The brothers realized that there were support groups for every disease, addiction, and challenge in life, but there was no organization to help family members left behind by incarceration.
During the past 20 years, TIFA has grown into a statewide, all-volunteer, membership-based organization composed of families affected by incarceration in Texas. TIFA members are committed to action and advocacy, in addition to meeting the needs of families in crisis. TIFA aims to break the cycle of incarceration by strengthening families through organizing, support, education, and advocacy.
TIFA’s key activities include:
- Monthly Chapter Meetings offer support and education where members can share their similar struggles. TIFA has 18 chapters located throughout Texas: Amarillo, South Austin, North Austin, Beaumont, Conroe, Corpus Christi, Central Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Humble, Killeen, Nacogdoches, Pearland, San Antonio, North San Antonio, and Tyler.
- Parole Packet Workshops offer families training on how to support of their loved one’s release onto parole. These workshops are particularly important to families who cannot afford a parole attorney and relieve some of the stress and financial burden association with the parole process.
- Participation in TDCJ quarterly meetings provides TIFA an opportunity to interface with prison officials and present concerns of TIFA members to key administrators. These relationships also allow TIFA to intervene on behalf of members whose incarcerated loved-one is facing a specific crisis.
- Regular meetings with lawmakers, legislative monitoring and advocacy ensure that the experiences and concerns of families are inserted into broader debates about criminal justice in Texas.
Key recent TIFA accomplishments include:
- TIFA was a lead organizer in the Texas Families for Justice Rally. This rally brought together 600 families, formerly incarcerated individuals and allies on the steps of the state capitol to support criminal justice change.
- Provided advocacy and social media leadership training to chapter leaders.
- Formed partnerships with key state advocates including Texas Voices and Texas CURE.
- TIFA captured the attention of legislators, advocates and correctional administrators by fostering incredible growth in 2014, adding three new chapters, expanding presence in South Texas, increasing board leadership and doubling membership base. TIFA provided testimony to legislative committees to educate lawmakers and provide personal experiences with the criminal justice system.
- TIFA leaders sit on several Reentry Councils located around the state designed to provide family input into policy conversations about reintegration post-release.
- TIFA conducted a membership survey to gather information on key issues including the financial costs of incarceration to families. Specifically, the survey gathered data on the costs of visitation, commissary, phone fees and medical expenses.
- TIFA Storybook Project allows incarcerated parents to make recordings of themselves reading to their children, who then receive the books and tapes.