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Criminal Justice

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Texas ranks near the top among states in terms of share of state population involved in the criminal justice system. The United States had nearly 7 million people under supervision of adult state and local correctional systems in 2012—one in every 35 adults. About one in every 50 adult residents in the community were on probation or parole. Texas had more than 730,000 people under supervision at any time in 2012—about one in every 26 adults. About one in every 37 adult residents in the...

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Texas ranks near the top among states in terms of share of state population involved in the criminal justice system. The United States had nearly 7 million people under supervision of adult state and local correctional systems in 2012—one in every 35 adults. About one in every 50 adult residents in the community were on probation or parole. Texas had more than 730,000 people under supervision at any time in 2012—about one in every 26 adults. About one in every 37 adult residents in the community were on probation or parole. The increasing cost of incarceration, both in economic terms and in the human impact on incarcerated individuals, families, and communities, requires the ongoing attention of state and local leadership. More than 90 percent of individuals in prison will one day return home. Individuals coming home from prison or jail face numerous challenges to successful reentry. Recent changes in Texas have improved the outlook for successful reentry into communities from the criminal justice system, but resources may be uneven across the state.

In part because Texas invests relatively little in mental health treatment programs, the state’s criminal justice system ends up the default mental health provider for many individuals with mental illness. Examining Texas’ community-oriented policing policies and identifying best practices in law enforcement engagement with individuals experiencing mental illness could help to make communities safer and save money in the system overall.

Racial disparities in arrests, convictions, and sentencing have led to a breakdown in trust between law enforcement and community members in some local communities. Racially charged conflicts between law enforcement and residents around the nation have left many communities fearful and resentful of law enforcement officials. Institutional distrust leads to a reluctance to report crime, which decreases the public safety of everyone. Recent high-profile cases in Texas and across the nation demonstrate the many deep flaws in the U.S. capital punishment system. From execution of innocent people to botched executions with untested drugs, the death penalty is an antiquated system that has no place in 21st century Texas.

 

In Remembrance is an annual event at the Captain Joe Byrd Prison Cemetery in Huntsville, co-hosted by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy and Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Huntsville. On the Saturday after All Souls Day, participants held an interfaith service of remembrance and prayed for the 3,500 families represented by the headstones. 

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As a staff member of Texas Impact and a member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, standing in the middle of the Captain Joe Byrd Prison Cemetery on a plot of land I often drive by without a second thought for the “In Remembrance” event is always a very spiritual moment for me, inviting me to reflect on the notion that all lives are of sacred value.

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Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery, Huntsville, Texas
Event Date: 
Saturday, November 7, 2015 -
8:30am to 11:30am

For 160 years, the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery has been the final resting place for many people who died while serving time in Texas prisons. Approximately 3,000 people are buried at this cemetery in Huntsville, either because their families couldn’t afford funeral costs or because no one claimed them. 

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