The Work Continues: Criminal Justice Reform

This past summer, the House Democratic Caucus assembled several work groups to address key issues and establish legislative priorities for 2021.

The Criminal Justice Work Group was comprised of Representatives Alma Allen (D-Houston), Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville), Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Jessica González (D-Dallas), Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston), Joe Moody (D-El Paso), Victoria Neave (D-Dallas), Carl Sherman (D-DeSoto) and Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston).

These Members worked hard over the past year, hosting phone calls with agencies and state leaders to ask critical questions, discussing potential solutions to the myriad issues in Texas’ criminal justice system and supporting other advocates, such as the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, in their efforts to fight for change.

In August, the House Democratic Caucus hosted a three-day virtual retreat to brainstorm, organize and prepare for the next Legislative Session. At this event, each work group presented their recommendations for the key reforms Democratic Members should pursue next sesion. 

The Criminal Justice Work Group identified the following topics as top priorities:

  1. Refocus Policing
    • Develop unarmed, non-police response services for mental health crises, substance use and homeless issues and nuisance reports in cities,
  2. Calibrate Force
    • Violence should be made rare and proportionate, and must always come with responsibility and accountability.
  3. Shift Incentives
    • We must reinforce the policing we want to see, and provide meaningful accountability for the policing we don’t.
  4. Decriminalize
    • The criminal justice system shouldn’t be the solution for every issue. We must reconsider how and when we bring people into it.
  5. Decarcerate
    • Jails and prisons have a place in our system, but they should be seen as the last resort and be run wisely and humanely.
  6. Be Transparent
    • Nothing our government does — particularly as it relates to policing and police accountability — should ever be a secret from the public.

We thank the Members of the Criminal Justice Work Group for their leadership, and look forward to supporting all Representatives’ efforts to pass common-sense reforms to keep all Texans safe.