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Weekly Brief, March 23, 2021
Focus: Criminal Justice & Safety

Save Bail Reform in Texas... 

The Texas Senate Committee on Jurisprudence heard testimony on March 18, 2021 over Senate Bill 21 (SB 21) filed by State Senator Joan Huffman. Texas counties, including Harris County, have made great strides in recent years to reform the bail system; the county allows for the release of a majority of misdemeanor defendants. Cash bail is a racist, classist system that preys on low-income people and furthers the disproportionate incarceration and marginalization of Black and Latinx people. Research from the Vera Institute of Justice shows that even two nights in jail deeply disrupts someone's life, their employment and relationships, and makes it more likely they will reoffend.

SB 21 is reported as being in direct response and designed to undo the ongoing bail reform progress in Harris County. The bill seeks: 

  • to ban no-cost release from jail for a sweeping amount of defendants, including individuals accused of low-level drug possession, prostitution, and other misdemeanors.

  • to forbid release from jail without payment for anyone arrested for any other crime while out of jail on bond

  • to ban no-cost release for people who have missed any court date while on a cashless release in the last two years, despite research that shows people mostly miss court dates due to poverty-related issues (lack of transportation and childcare, the inability to call off work,etc.).  

  • to severely restrict community-based or charitable bail funds, quite transparently backing the private, for-profit bail industry. 

To learn more, click here.  

SB 21 is in other words, rolling back reform in a time when the pandemic has escalated an existing systemic humanitarian crisis in all jails/prisons, and when even with the current reforms in place in Harris County, unjust deaths connected to the inability to pay bond have occurred.  The story of 64 year-old Preston Chaney, as we discussed in the February 26 CCPPI newsletter, Mass Incarceration is a Public Health Crisis, is just one example.

Mr. Chaney died in Harris County Jail of COVID-19 three months after being arrested for allegedly stealing lawn equipment and frozen meat. If he had been able to pay a $100 bond, he would not have died of the virus while confined in jail. In another example, Houston police went undercover and arrested 57 year old Israel Iglesias, an unhoused man who lived with a mental illness, for possession of 0.6 grams of meth. Prosecutors wanted him held without bond indefinitely due to a past record. He was ultimately given a $1500 bond, but tragically died of “a medical episode” in custody the next day.

Call to Action:

People should not languish in jail
just because they can not afford to pay bail.
You can take action now to #KillSB21.


 Sign the petition by Texas Organizing Project here

 Contact your representative through ACLU Texas here and tell our lawmakers to protect Texans, not bail industry profits.

Inhumane Conditions Inside Texas Prisons/Jails during the Winter Storm...

4.5 million Texans were without power and water due to a major system failure during the historic winter storm that ravaged our state last month. Many individuals and families are still dealing with the aftermath of the freeze which killed 57 people and damaged property across the state. While some had the option to stay with family or friends whose dwellings had maintained power and/or water, pile on blankets/layers, or warm up in their cars, people incarcerated in prisons and jails had no other option but to suffer through frigid temperatures, with no access to safe drinking water, blankets or other means to stay warm, and, exposed to vile and unsanitary conditions.
Texas has the largest state-run prison system in the country and over thirty facilities lost power and water. Harris County Jail was freezing cold and smelled of urine. In facilities across the state, people’s bodies went numb, fingers turned blue, and skin cracked from the cold. Food was moldy and inedible, cold and unidentifiable. The unsanitary conditions and toilet situations were inhumane.

- Finis Prendergast, 42-year-old incarcerated at Harris County Jail

Housing Stability is Key for Justice-Involved People...

Housing is one of our most basic human needs. The drastic shortage of affordable and available housing is a barrier to reentry for previously incarcerated people. CCPPI works to address those barriers by creating affordable housing in the Third Ward and adjacent areas, which is key in addressing the needs of people who have been systemically denied access to necessary resources after incarceration. Historic racist policies and local practices are why there are such drastic racial disparities in the criminal justice system and homelessness rates. Housing Matters argues that counties can help to create housing stability for justice-involved people by understanding past harms and using the tools in their power to expand housing solutions.

Mapping Police Violence, New Data...

Mapping Police Violence recently released their report which represents the most comprehensive account of deadly police violence in 2020. 1,127 people were killed by the police last year. Black people were more likely to be killed by the police, more likely to be unarmed and less likely to be threatening someone when killed. Click here to learn more and view the interactive report.  

In Austin, Christopher Taylor, the officer who shot and killed Michael Ramos, an unarmed Black and Hispanic man, that began protests in Texas against police brutality (just weeks before George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis), has been charged with murder.

Affordable Housing Progress...

Completion of the One Emancipation Center (Affordable Housing Operations Center) has an anticipated completion of March 2021. It is located at 3131 Emancipation Ave., Houston, TX 77004. This five-story building will house CCPPI and other agencies dedicated to affordable housing development, advocacy, and economic growth of the community. Those interested in lease information, renderings, and marketing materials, please contact our commercial realtor partners Ed Ryland, ARVO or Chip Horne, Cushman & Wakefield. 

St. Charles Place is located at 3113 St. Charles Street, Houston, TX 77004, is a 20-unit multi-family rental development located nearby One Emancipation Center.  Completion of this project is expected March 2021. 

For more photos of both properties, visit our most recent Construction Updates newsletter.

If you are in need of resources due to impact from the severe winter storm, or are looking for ways to help, click here to view our past distribution for more information. 

You can also take action by urging Congress to support the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act and make disaster relief efforts equitable.

Check out our Social Media pages below for updates on CCPPI’s work, local advocacy efforts, and news stories on the topics of housing, healthcare, education, and criminal justice and safety. 

The Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing policies that promote human, civic, social, and economic justice, and to taking the necessary action to affect progress in all areas of civic improvement throughout the culturally diverse communities
in the Southern United States.

Copyright © 2021 CCPPI, All rights reserved.

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