2021 Legislative & Annual Report: Criminal Justice

3 minute read

Thanks to the hands-on, in-the-Capitol leadership of our Peer Policy Fellow, Jennifer "Jen" Toon, as well as the effective mentorship of Advocacy Director Jolene Sanders-Foster, CTD made major strides into the area of criminal justice this session. This is critical work because it is well documented that people with disabilities are over represented in the criminal justice system, as well as more likely to be victimized while in the system and receive less access to supportive services. CTD’s work this session revolved around ensuring that kids and adults with mental health concerns and/or IDD have the support they needed in both county and state facilities.

Youth Justice

HB 2107 (Wu) will ensure that children who need competency restoration as a result of an intellectual disability in order to participate in juvenile court proceedings will receive appropriate services or treatment, including outpatient services as necessary.

Three women sitting at a teal cafeteria table look up from their laptops to smile at the camera.HB 30 (Talarico) mandates that minors in the adult system receive a full education, including requirements to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and directs the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to develop an individualized education plan or program for all eligible youth with a disability. Left, Jen with Maggie Luna and Devon Driver of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition working on their support of HB 30.

HB 686 (Moody), the Second Look bill, would have required parole panels to consider certain factors relating to growth and maturity when making release decisions for inmates who were younger than 18 years of age when they committed the offense for which they were tried as adults and would have changed parole eligibility for inmates serving a sentence for first degree felonies committed when younger than 18. Despite wide support and passage in both houses, the Governor vetoed this bill. View Jen's stirring testimony on the Second Look bill (video is about 3 minutes long, starting at 03:58:15).

County Jails

SB 49 (Zaffirini) ensures that officials who are responsible (including sheriffs and personal bond officers) for the incarcerated persons in their custody, or for their supervision if they are out on bail, have access to information regarding a mental health condition or intellectual or developmental disability defendants might have. This would ensure that such persons are treated appropriately given their condition and provided with an adequate amount of supervision.

HB 2831 (White) established a permanent advisory committee tasked with monitoring and gathering data regarding the detention of persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities and providing recommendations and guidelines on the detention of such persons. This bill also includes more training for jailers.

HB 3447 (White), which did not pass, sought to address concerns to help prevent the medical neglect of county jail inmates by:

Death Penalty 

HB 140 (Rose) would have addressed the use of the death penalty for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder by providing protections on the determination that the individual had a severe mental illness with active psychotic symptoms at the time of the offense. This bill did not pass.

Last: Children with Disabilities and Their Families Next: Mental Health and IDD Services