Justice

Texas House Democrats believe the best way to increase public safety is to be smart about crime. We believe that evidence-driven decisions, complete with support and accountability for public safety officials, are the best path forward to keeping our communities safe.

Criminal justice reform includes a wide range of policies. We should expunge records of low-level criminals, and not place a barrier for those that have served their time on getting work, housing, and other critical needs. We should raise the age of when we charge children for serious crimes, and we must pursue accountability measures that give us access to the best data on policing.

Here’s a sample of some of the legislation championed by Texas House Democrats in 2017:

 

Strengthening Texas’ Human Trafficking Laws

HB 29 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson

The legislation enacts 11 task force recommendations intended to combat human trafficking by strengthening criminal penalties for those who engage in trafficking or prostitution. The goal of the law is to ensure a more secure state for Texans, and better empower officials looking to fight this heinous crime.

 

Crackdown on Illegal Massage Parlors

House Bill 240 by Rep. Ana Hernandez

In Texas, over 1200 “erotic massage” parlors are advertised on popular websites. These places are often fronts for human trafficking and prostitution. HB 240 makes it easier for local governments to shut down these blights on our communities.

 

Clear Backlog of Rape Kit Tests

House Bill 1729 by Rep. Victoria Neave

The bill creates a grant program that will help pay for the backlog of evidence regarding sexual assaults and other sexual offenses. Read more about the legislation from the Dallas Morning News.

 

Alerts for Missing Persons with Alzheimer’s

House Bill 2639 by Rep. Joe Pickett

This bill would broaden existing amber and silver alert proposals to ensure that there is proper public safety assistance for a missing person suffering from Alzheimer’s.

 

Collecting Data for Police Shootings

HB 245 by Rep. Eric Johnson

The bill enhances Texas’ statewide tracking system of police shootings. Current law requires law enforcement agencies to submit a report whenever an officer is involved in a shooting, whether that shooting ends in a death or an injury. However, not all agencies had complied with the law. HB 245 creates a daily $1,000 penalty for any agencies that don’t follow current law.

 

Facilitate Faster Expungement of Arrest Records

HB 557 by Rep. Nicole Collier

Eases the process by which attorneys can expunge individual’s records, making it easier for Texans to rehabilitate within the community for job, housing, and other critical needs.

 

Mental Health Grant Programs for Peace Officers

HB 2619 by Rep. Helen Giddings

Peace officers and law enforcement officials can undergo tremendous amounts of trauma from their work-related experiences. The trauma can lead to untreated mental health issues. HB 2619 creates a grant program in the governor’s office to help law enforcement officials detect and begin to treat mental health challenges that are a result of their hard work and efforts.

 

Avoid Cycle of Debt for Low-Income Texans in Criminal Cases

HB 351 by Rep. Terry Canales

The bill allows judges to reduce the number of Texans trapped in the current criminal justice system’s cycle of debt by ensuring that low-income Texans are still held accountable without jail time when they are unable to pay their fines and court costs in criminal cases.

 

Strengthening the DNA Database for Sexual Crimes

HB 238 by Rep. Ana Hernandez

The bill broadens the individuals required to submit a DNA sample to include those convicted of solicitation, with the hope that such a sample may help vindicate innocent suspects while, at the same time, ensure those who actually commit crimes are able to be caught and sentenced.

 

Support and Anonymity for Victims of Family Violence

HB 3649 by Rep. Abel Herrero

When a person is battered and beaten, he or she is most likely to go to a shelter seeking a safe space to discuss the abuse. However, records held at these facilities can often be obtained by the perpetrator of the crime through court orders, making it less likely that a victim of family violence would fully share his or her story. The bill allows family violence survivors to shield this type of confidential information from being made public, in order to create a better environment for victims to share their story and, thus, receive the full help and assistance that is required.

 

Creating a Statewide Tracking System for DNA Evidence

HB 281 by Rep. Donna Howard

Requires the Texas DPS to develop a tracking system for the location of DNA evidence at every stage of the process — from initial collection and receipt and storage through testing and analysis. Any survivors of crimes shall be allowed to anonymously track or receive updates through the process. This tremendous new system will bring greater security of information, providing certainty that evidence in these heinous crimes is properly accounted for throughout the investigatory process.

 

Coordinating TDCJ Classes for Inmates

HB 2888 by Rep. Ramon Romero, Jr.

Currently, inmates who are about to complete their time and begin serving parole are not always aware of required classes or courses the Board of Pardons and Paroles may require the inmate to complete before they can be released. HB 2888 streamlines this process by requiring stronger coordination between the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the parole boards.