1. Smart Sentencing
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.
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
2. Raising the Age
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.
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
3. Pre-Trial Fairness
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.