Texas Justice System Case Study
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Texas Department of Criminal Justice investigating why media wasn’t allowed at Wednesday’s execu...
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Will Violence Interrupters be the Answer? Learn more. Incarcerating Democracy Learn more. Featured Publications View All. Responding to a National Crisis. Making Our Impact on the World. House of Representatives. Explore our Action Briefs Americans are demanding changes to law enforcement protocols as a response to the epidemic of police misconduct. Learn More. Researcher Development Program The Center for Justice Research cultivates a community of students and faculty who are interested in culturally responsive research and evaluation.
Corporate Social Justice The Center for Justice Research is leading when it comes to collaborating on corporate social justice projects. Our Mission Reduce mass incarceration through targeted , culturally-responsive, evidence-supported solutions and strategic engagements. In the News. Proposed Redistricting is Silencing Minority Communities. No Research Supports Atlanta's Curfew. View all. What We Do. Researcher Development Culturally responsive and equity-sensitive researchers are necessary for an equitable criminal legal system. But study after study proves that incarceration is far less effective at reducing drug use or improving public safety than less expensive, less destructive, evidence-based alternatives such as pre-trial and pre-arrest diversion programs.
Fortunately, there is increased momentum to address this problem. In recent months, we've witnessed diverse and influential voices ranging from U. Rand Paul of Kentucky to U. Attorney General Eric Holder publicly agree the war on drugs has been ineffective public safety policy, wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and had a particularly unjust and disparate effect on minorities.
Here in Texas, I have advocated being smarter on crime by diverting more nonviolent drug possession offenders into alternatives to incarceration that have proven to be successful at reducing crime and drug use in our communities. Advancing this smart-on-crime approach will put Texas on the path to a more effective and efficient approach to justice. The promise that every person, rich or poor, stands equal before the law is at the root of the American ideals of liberty and justice. Ensuring that promise is a reality requires that all people have their rights equally protected by quality legal representation when they are accused of a crime.
Unfortunately, in Texas, quality of justice is too often contingent on your wealth and the attorney you can afford. Again, this is an area where Texas has made progress but still lags woefully behind in establishing structural safeguards and investing the resources necessary to truly protect the Sixth Amendment right to counsel for all Texans. Most Texas counties continue to utilize an antiquated, court-appointed counsel system where a judge chooses your lawyer if you're poor and even decides whether an attorney gets resources to investigate a case. Allowing a judge to have that level of control over a defendant's attorney creates an inherent conflict and risks interfering with an individual's freedom to have independent representation.
These structural impediments to providing quality counsel are compounded by the failure to invest adequate resources for indigent defense. Texas ranked an embarrassing 48th out of the 50 states in indigent defense investment in As a result of this underfunding, attorneys burdened with overwhelming caseloads, with some even handling up to cases in a single year. This translates into inadequate time to visit with clients, conduct sufficient research, or do meaningful investigation.
The outcome is a fundamentally unfair system of legal representation that places innocent people at risk of being wrongfully convicted simply because they are poor. Again, easy fixes are available. Texas needs to encourage and support the creation of additional public defender systems to handle indigent defense. Evidence proves that public defender systems are the most cost-effective way to deliver quality indigent defense services and ensure that low-income Texans, at the very least, receive some semblance of equal justice. Public defenders improve the quality of representation because they are independent of the judiciary and provide an institutional infrastructure that builds accountability, just like a prosecutor's office.
Additionally, public defenders use tax dollars more efficiently than court-appointed systems because economies of scale and non-duplication of services allow them to save money. That is why more Texas counties have recently moved to utilize public defender offices. Texas simply needs to provide the financial and institutional support to continue that trajectory. Since we spend more than any other state to lock people up, the least we can do is invest in making sure we are locking up the right people in a fair and just manner.
Martin Luther King Jr.