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Lawsuit Filed Calling TX Dept. of Criminal Justice to Release Documents it has Been Withholding, Violating the Texas Public Information Act 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE 

July 13, 2021 

   

Press contacts: 
Elianne Ramos | Chief Communications Officer | [email protected] | 212.739.7513 

Sarai Bejarano | Manager of Traditional & Digital Media | [email protected] | 212-739-7581 

  

Lawsuit Filed Calling TX Dept. of Criminal Justice to Release Documents it has Been Withholding, Violating the Texas Public Information Act  

AUSTIN, TX- Today, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, with McDermott Will & Emery and Miller Lloyd, sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (“TDJC”) for its repeated failure to provide documents related to its Pre-Release programming. LatinoJustice’s ongoing investigation into these programs has revealed that TDCJ has dramatically reduced the crucial in-person counseling at the heart of the programs. Instead of meeting with trained counselors, program participants are asked to fill out workbook forms about lessons they have not taken. Moreover, TDCJ has demanded that participants complete timesheets that reflect hours of in-person counseling that they have not received, threatening them with program extensions or discipline if they refuse. As part of its investigation, LatinoJustice has sent a number of document requests to TDCJ seeking basic information about program operation, timekeeping and evaluation. TDCJ has refused to provide public information pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act, necessitating this lawsuit. 

Most people who are granted parole in Texas still have to first take and complete a “rehabilitation program” while in prison before they can be released. When COVID-19 struck in March 2020, the TDCJ delayed access to these programs, leaving people who had been granted parole imprisoned for months before they could even start their programming. A recent report by University of Texas at Austin found that dozens of people died after being granted parole while waiting for their programming to start. 

LatinoJustice’s investigation found that when individuals did get access to programming, TDCJ had dramatically reduced in-person counseling but still required people to document time as though they had been seeing counselors. Texas law requires that programming must address the assessed needs of offenders, must be implemented by highly skilled staff, and must provide individualized case management, which TDCJ failed to do. Instead, it forced people to fill out workbook pages relating to counseling sessions that had never taken place. And at the end of each week, it forced them to fill out timesheets confirming that they had spent multiple hours a day receiving therapeutic treatment that TDCJ never provided. 

The documents requested by LatinoJustice would reveal how TDCJ’s programs were compromised, what steps TDCJ is taking to comply with the law, and whether forcing people to fill out timesheets incorrectly was an isolated practice or a system-wide fraud.  

Statement by Jorge Renaud, LatinoJustice PRLDEF National Criminal Justice Director: 
“The barriers that TDCJ has in place to avoid sharing what should be easily accessible public information is astounding. During the recent legislative session, LatinoJustice drafted
HB2145, which would have made details of the programs TDCJ touts as necessary to ensure individuals leaving prison have addressed substance abuse issues available to the public. However, that bill, sponsored by State Rep. Alma Allen, was watered down in the House and was never heard in the Senate. TDCJ administrators are more worried about protecting the private vendors who provide the programs than providing information to the Texans who pay for those programs.” 

Statement by Jenny Lloyd, Miller Lloyd P.C. 
“The COVID pandemic has impacted everyone in Texas, including our incarcerated population, who even after being granted parole cannot leave facilities with COVID outbreaks.  I am honored to work pro bono with LatinoJustice to seek out up-to-date, comprehensive information from Texas Department of Criminal Justice to investigate whether these parole programs are helping parolees successfully transition out of facilities, rather than keep them longer in unsafe conditions.”    

Additional Materials: 
-Petition 

 

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About LatinoJustice 
LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For nearly 50 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout the country. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit www.LatinoJustice.org