On November 7th, 2014 Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA), Texas CURE, and Texas VOICES, are joining forces for the Texas Families for Justice Rally. This grassroots collection of people, most with imprisoned loved ones, will send a clear message to the Texas legislature–“the criminal justice system in Texas is broken.”
On November 7th from 12pm-3pm, Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA), Texas Voices, and TxCure are coming together for the Texas Families for Justice Rally at the Texas State Capitol. This is a grassroots collection of people, most with imprisoned loved ones, empowering, and mobilizing to bring attention to a broken criminal justice system. In Texas, there are too many people sent to prison, unequally punished and then released back to under-resourced communities filled with ‘invisible punishments’. Invisible punishments include being denied the basic social supports needed to successfully reintegrate and survive, like food, housing, jobs, or loans to pursue their education.
Today, Texans need to know that the criminal justice system is locking up far too many individuals, for far too long – approximately 150,000 in Texas prisons and 68,000 in county jails. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) alone costs taxpayers $3.2 billion dollars yearly, taking money from other vital state programs and services. In addition, everyone needs to realize that our communities of color bear an unequal burden when it comes to incarceration.
Today’s criminal justice system causes stress and anxiety for families in many different ways. All worry because their imprisoned family member is subjected to harsh circumstances, including administrative segregation, staff abuse, unbearable and overcrowded housing conditions and the system failing to provide adequate healthcare. Because of the understaffing of prisons with low paid and minimally trained officers, many offenders are poorly treated and unexpectedly locked down and not allowed to go to work, school or commissary because of understaffing. Incarceration also costs families hundreds of dollars monthly to visit and support their imprisoned loved ones. Failing to release people who demonstrate readiness to return home causes additional financial and emotional stress and depression for everyone involved. And children, who are separated from their parent, are at an increased risk for both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, cognitive delays, suffering from depression and experiencing difficulties in school.
Texas lawmakers need to consider how the laws of our state are affecting our families and communities. We would recommend that they look to the broader global context for evidence that incarceration need not be the default response to larger social problems. It is crucial that state decision makers work to truly reduce criminal rates by:
- Creating restorative, re-integrative, and community-based solutions instead of punishment for the masses
- Creating economic and social solutions to jobs, housing, food, healthcare, education and racial justice
- Making higher education available to all, in and out of prison
- Stopping the school to prison pipeline
- Eliminating for-profit prisons
- Reforming parole by approving applicants based on a fair evaluation
- Releasing low risk incarcerated elders
- Banning post-prison discrimination in education, jobs and housing
- Overhauling the public defense system statewide
- Raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18
- Paying correctional officers a fair wage and providing additional training
- Limiting administrative segregation
- Investing in community-based and public health solutions to drug addiction and mental illness
As the State of Texas labors over balancing its next budget, decisions will be made about which programs should be cut or enhanced. Cutting education and health care budgets while favoring a destructive and expensive prison industry is not the right solution. Criminal justice reform is the right solution. Now is the moment for Texans to meet the needs of our communities and heal our families.
At this rally, it is imperative that we show those impacted by the system that they have a voice and real political power to achieve these goals. It is even more important for our legislature and criminal justice officials to understand that we are a growing group of Texans and we are working to reshape criminal justice policy. Texas is about to change, and those who have been affected by the criminal justice system are going to lead this charge.
For more information please contact one of our family coalition members:
Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA)
email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 512-371-0900
Texas Voices for Reason and Justice
email: email@example.com phone: 877-215-6688
Texas Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (TX-CURE)
email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 469-207-5063
Please share this information with your family and friends. They can register to attend the Rally and receive updates by going to www.tifa.org and clicking on the ‘Rally at the Capitol’ button. It’s important and it’s free! We all deserve a second chance.