You’ve stuck with Just Liberty through a long, grueling process this legislative session, and we can’t thank you enough for your resilience and commitment to criminal justice reform. Congratulations for being a part of a movement that helped to pass some major bills. The veto period is over, and the results are in!
The Sandra Bland Act (SB 1849)
We rode hard for this from the moment it was filed, through its many iterations, and to its current form. Kudos for undertaking that tumultuous process! No, the bill isn’t the stout police reform bill that we set out to pass, but we can’t deny that it does a lot of good and that we felt compelled to keep pushing it even as it was whittled down.
This law changes interactions between police officers and people in mental health crisis or suffering the effects of substance abuse. Also enacted are requirements to improve jail standards to ensure the continuity of prescription drugs after arrest and to train/test jail administrators to help them professionalize. Independent law enforcement agencies that are not affiliated with jail administration will investigate jail deaths.
Finally, it requires de-escalation training and detailed racial profiling data that includes all stops, from warning to arrest stops.
Debtor’s Prison Reform (HB 351)
This new law addresses fines and fees for indigent people. It allows judges to waive fines and fees or assign community service when a person can’t pay.
The Innocence Bill (HB 34)
Preventing wrongful convictions for felonies is an honorable cause, and one we stepped into by urging the enactment of this law. Electronic recordings of felony interrogations are now required, flaws in the eyewitness identification process have been rectified, and past testimonial histories and related incentives for prison snitches will be shared with defense attornies.
Limiting Pre-K to 2nd Grade School Suspensions (HB 674)
Under this law, schools may develop and implement a program to provide a disciplinary alternative for Pre-K to 2nd grade students. Out-of-school suspension is permissible when weapons, violence, drugs, or alcohol are involved, but those circumstances are quite rare among very young kids.
A collective sigh of relief and a sense of satisfaction are justified with the enactment of these laws. Of course, our road of comprehensive criminal justice reform is long yet, but we did well this session! The climate was smothering at the capitol, but we sallied forth to achieve these hard-fought victories.
We’ve put together a podcast to provide you with a candid discussion of these and other bills. It features our Policy Director, Scott Henson, and the Executive Director of Texas Defender Service, Amanda Marzullo.
As always, we invite you to Like us on Facebook and/or Follow us on Twitter to become even more active with Just Liberty and take part in an energetic conversation about our bipartisan push for reform. We will continue to the fight for liberty and safety during the interim, so we urge you to stay involved. Like or Follow your lawmakers on social media and send them a message about the reforms you support and let them know that you’ll continue to put pressure on them whether they are at the capitol or back home.