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TFF Legislation

1. Smart Sentencing

THE PROBLEM:

Texas treats our lowest-level drug offenders--people who may have a drug problem, but  aren't dealing, trafficking, or being violent--as if they were dangerous felons. Illegal possession of the tiniest amount of Oxycodone is a state jail felony, with a possible penalty of up to two years locked up with serious criminals. We're clogging up our courts and wasting tax money on people who need rehab, not prison. Worse, a felony conviction makes it harder to get a job, find housing, and be a productive member of society--meaning that these harsh penalties actually make it more likely that low-level offenders will turn into habitual criminals.

THE SOLUTION:

Today's Texas Justice will reduce the penalty for possession of less than one gram of "Penalty Group 1" substances from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor, and reduce the penalty for posession of less than one ounce of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor. This will keep people with low-level drug problems out of the felony system and make sure they can get the help they need.

2. Raising the Age

THE PROBLEM:

Texas is one of only a few states that still treats 17 year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. This means that kids who aren't even old enough to buy cigarettes can be tried in adult courts and sentenced to do hard time in adult prisons with lifelong criminals. Besides the mounting scientific evidence that 17 year-olds simply don't have the maturity of adults, this creates a host of problems for Texas: the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requires that minors, including 17 year-olds, be completely isolated from adult prisoners--this is expensive and difficult in most facilities, and actually impossible in others. This problem is especially acute in smally county jails, which is why the Texas Sheriff's Association supports raising the age. In addition, 17 year-olds are far more likely to become victims when placed in adult prisons, are less likely to be rehabilitated, and are more likely to re-offend when they get out.

THE SOLUTION:

Today's Texas Justice will raise the age for inclusion in the juvenile justice system to 17. This will keep young offenders out of adult prisons andmake sure they get rehabilitation in the system that was designed for them.

3. Pre-Trial Fairness

THE PROBLEM:

In too many cases, people who accused--but not convicted--of minor charges languish in jail because they don't have the hundreds or thousands of dollars for bail. They often lose their jobs, and sometimes their families, simply because they are too poor to write a check and get out of jail.Or they plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit just so they can get back to work.

The current system spends almost $2 million a day holding people who haven't even been given a trial behind bars, but lets dangerous criminals who have the money walk back into our communities. It's time to replace money bonds with a system that 1) issues tickets instead of arresting people for non-violent, low-level offenses, 2) lets low-risk people awaiting trial return to their families and their jobs, and 3) keeps high-risk offenders locked up, no matter how much money they have.

THE SOLUTION:

Today's Texas Justice will eliminate money bonds in favor of citation releases (getting a ticket and a summons for your court date, like a speeding ticket), risk-based pre-trial services (careful consideration of risk factors before releasing anyone and careful monitoring--including tracking devices--while they await trial), and due process detention (holding the right people in jail, if the state can show they pose a serious risk of flight or harm to the community).


4. Re-Joining Society

THE PROBLEM:

Offenders who have done their time and paid their debts mostly want what everyone else wants--a chance to be a productive member of society. But current laws throw unnecessary hurdles in their way--hurdles that, all too often, lead people back into criminal activity and high cost to themselves, their families, our communities and our taxpayers. Many employers screen out anyone with a felony conviction without considering what the conviction was, or giving the applicant a chance to explain. Many state agencies will refuse a professional license, no matter how unrelated a felony conviction was. And every day in Texas, children go hungry just because their parentswere found with a tiny amount of marijuana ten years ago.

THE SOLUTION

Today's Texas Justice will "ban the box." That is, eliminate the practice of automatically rejecting employment applications for any felony conviction, while still allowing employers to make their own decisions once they have all the information. Futher, TTJ will eliminate the lifetime prohibition on SNAP benefits (food stamps) currently in place for even the most minor drug offenses, limit the withholding of occupational licenses without good cause, and expand orders of disclosure ("sealing your record") to include minor convictions.