Texas Families Rally for Criminal Justice

Claim state's justice system is broken

Jorge Renaud
Jorge Renaud

A few elderly fellows after the rally had to laugh at it: In Friday morning's paper, Rick Perry’s attorney was reportedly in disbelief at the “utter chaos” that is the American justice system. Outside the governor’s office that afternoon, nearly 300 gathered to decry a similar struggle.

Their situation’s even worse. As the loved ones of those incarcerated, each deals with criminal injustices in ways Perry and his political constituents could never imagine: insufficient education, small legal budgets, emotional fragility, and bad job prospects if they’re eventually set free. Such was enough to bring the Texas Families for Justice to the Capitol in a collective effort to increase the quality of life for those incarcerated and create a better path towards rehabilitation when their loved ones complete their sentences.

The hour-and-a-half hour rally featured speakers from All of Us or None Texas, the Texas Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (TX-CURE), the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the Center for Community Change, and the Texas Inmates Families Association. One by one, they spoke of the power a mass like the one assembled could hold when it came to changing a broken system. “The best lobbyists are moms, dads, sisters, and cousins,” offered Allison Brock, chief of staff for State Rep. Sylvester Turner. “The best are those immediately impacted by incarceration.” Gabe Gonzalez of the Center for the Community Change laid out the science as follows: More mass incarcerations lead to more affected families, which in turn lead to more people involved in the fight.

Those currently fighting stood in the sun with signs held high; ones that read “My Past Is Not My Future” and “Contact Visits for All.” A few hinted towards the idea that loved ones served as an incarcerated individual’s identity. “I am his voice,” one wife had written. “He has just a number.” They cheered as TCJC’s Jorge Renaud argued that “we cannot look down on the crimes we have committed” and tried to make sense of the stories from his own incarceration. They then listened as he detailed plans to send each in attendance into the Capitol and up to the offices of legislators with fact sheets concerning “the burden of [the] state’s broken criminal justice system” in hand; ones that laid out the pressures the system places on taxpayers and the outdated and unnecessary standards bearing down on Texas citizens found to have broken different laws.

It’s not just money and time that play into the problems. It’s also the human aspect; the emotional toll one endures when they’re locked away and barred from proper living standards and rehabilitative services. It evoked memories of Thursday’s rally in support of better standards for pregnant inmates. “We need to show the people in this building that we are a force to be reckoned with,” Renaud said at the conclusion on Friday. “But also to show each other that the people here have company.” Nobody wins when everybody’s barred from decent access. Nobody can learn when they’re not given a chance to ask questions.

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Texas Families for Justice, Jorge Renaud, Greg Jobin-Leeds, All of Us or None Texas, Texas Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Center for Community Change, Texas Inmates Families Association, Sylvester Turner, Allison Brock

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