Tribpedia: Texas Department Of Criminal Justice

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is the state agency responsible for managing state prisons and jails and the oversight of more than 150,000 offenders. The agency also supervises offenders released from prison on parole.

The board is composed of nine members who are appointed by the governor to staggered, six-year terms. The governor also designates one member as ...

Lawmakers Revisit Approach to Solitary Confinement

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, at a Sept. 4, 2012, hearing.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, at a Sept. 4, 2012, hearing.

Solitary confinement has increasingly become a national issue, as Congress has heard testimony about its psychological impact on prisoners. In Texas, there are concerns with the rehabilitation and re-entry of prisoners held for years without much human contact. For many, it's a matter of public safety.

TDCJ Faces Ongoing Staffing Challenges

During the 1990s, many Texans believed prison construction would help boost the economies in rural areas. Today, ongoing staffing shortages in rural units are causing legislators and other officials to reconsider that assumption. A Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman says addressing staffing issues remains a "top priority" for the department.

Probation Program Set for Trial Run in Texas

Since the first drug court began more than 20 years ago, the use of specialty courts has continued to grow nationwide. On Friday, a Hawaiian court program that closely oversees probation periods is set to begin in Texas and may help enhance the work of specialty courts.

Heated Arguments

Texas Weekly

While advocates worry particularly about heat conditions in a prison unit with recent water shortages, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering arguments in a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice alleging that the sweltering living quarters constitute cruel and unusual punishment. 

Interactive: Texas Wrongful Conviction Explorer

At least 86 Texans' convictions were overturned between 1989 and 2011, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The Texas Tribune analyzed court rulings, media reports and pardon statements to determine the cases in which courts ruled that prosecutorial error contributed to a wrongful conviction. Use our interactive to learn more about each case.

Family Sues TDCJ Over Heat-Related Death

As summer temperatures rise, so do worries about conditions in state prisons. Today, the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Texas prison officials on behalf of the family of an inmate who died last summer.

Manuel Velez was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s infant son in 2005.
Manuel Velez was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s infant son in 2005.

Death Sentence Thrown Out in 2005 Murder Case

A death sentence was reversed for Manuel Velez, who is convicted of first-degree murder for the death of his girlfriend's son. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the sentence because of inaccurate expert testimony given during Velez's sentencing.

Sunset Advisory Commission members Sen. Nichols R-Jacksonville, Sen. Whitmire D-Houston and Sen. Patrick R-Houston during June 5th, 2012 meeting
Sunset Advisory Commission members Sen. Nichols R-Jacksonville, Sen. Whitmire D-Houston and Sen. Patrick R-Houston during June 5th, 2012 meeting

Sunset Commission: TDCJ Can Improve in Communication

The Sunset Advisory Commission has found that there is room for improvement at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The commission discussed accountability, budgetary efficiency, response to inmate grievances and communication.

State Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano.
State Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano.

House Departures Take a Bite Out of Criminal Justice

Texas Weekly

For years they’ve been the Butch and Sundance of Texas criminal justice policy. Republican state Rep. Jerry Madden and Democrat state Sen. John Whitmire have helped lead a sea change in the adult and juvenile prison systems. But the team is breaking up. Madden, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, is retiring after 10 terms.

Michael Morton stands in a Williamson County courtroom with his attorneys, John Raley of the Houston law firm Raley & Bowick, and Nina Morrison of the New York-based Innocence Project. Morton was officially exonerated Dec. 19, 2011 after spending nearly 25 years in prison for his wife's murder.
Michael Morton stands in a Williamson County courtroom with his attorneys, John Raley of the Houston law firm Raley & Bowick, and Nina Morrison of the New York-based Innocence Project. Morton was officially exonerated Dec. 19, 2011 after spending nearly 25 years in prison for his wife's murder.

Texas Among Top 3 States in Total Exonerations

Researchers at two law schools Monday released an unprecedented listing of all the exoneration cases from the last 23 years. Only two states had more exonerations than Texas, according to the report. We have a graph breaking down the exoneration cases in Texas by types of crimes, and we have a list of all the Texas exonerees.

Interactive: Texas Budget Cuts Shrink State Government

With the state government tightening its belt, there are now 10,200 fewer state employees, according to an analysis of data collected by the state auditor’s office. This interactive shows how budget cuts have affected employment at state-funded entities from the second quarter of fiscal year 2011 to the second quarter of fiscal 2012.

Top Criminal Court to Hear Hank Skinner's DNA Plea

The latest installment in death row inmate Hank Skinner's decade-long quest for DNA testing comes today as his lawyers argue to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that a change in state law should allow the tests he hopes will prove he is innocent. State lawyers argue that Skinner had his chance at DNA testing and is just trying to delay the inevitable.

Dr. George Denkowski conducted psychological exams for more than a dozen current death row inmates. 1) Anthony Pierce 2) Virgilio Maldonado 3) Calvin Hunter 4) John Matamoros 5) Derrick Charles 6) Kim Ly Lim 7) Coy Wesbrook 8) Joel Escobedo 9) Jamie McCoskey 10) Warren Rivers 11) Tomas Gallo 12) Steven Butler 13) Alfred Brown
Dr. George Denkowski conducted psychological exams for more than a dozen current death row inmates. 1) Anthony Pierce 2) Virgilio Maldonado 3) Calvin Hunter 4) John Matamoros 5) Derrick Charles 6) Kim Ly Lim 7) Coy Wesbrook 8) Joel Escobedo 9) Jamie McCoskey 10) Warren Rivers 11) Tomas Gallo 12) Steven Butler 13) Alfred Brown

Appeals Court Orders Re-evaluation of Death Row Case

The state's highest criminal court on Wednesday ordered a lower court to review a death penalty case that involved a psychologist reprimanded last year for using unscientific methods to determine that defendants were intellectually competent enough to face capital punishment. 

Off Death Row, Kerry Max Cook Still Seeks True Freedom

Kerry Max Cook was released from death row in 1997 but has never officially been declared innocent of the 1977 murder of Linda Jo Edwards. He hopes to change that with new court filings. Michael Hall of Texas Monthly reports on Cook's complex case and the challenges he faces in trying to move on with his life. 

David Babb, the host of the Prison Show broadcast from KPFT, prepares to go on the ari in Houston Friday Feb 24, 2012.
David Babb, the host of the Prison Show broadcast from KPFT, prepares to go on the ari in Houston Friday Feb 24, 2012.

Prison Radio Show is Inmates' Link to the Outside World

Part news program, part call-in show, "The Prison Show" aims to help inmates stay connected to family, friends and the outside world. The call-in hour draws most listeners to the 30-year-old radio program. But the proxy weddings performed on the air are the real show-stoppers.

Harris County Stops Late Jail Releases

The Harris County Jail only discharges inmates during daylight hours after their sentences are completed. Other county jails, however, don’t have these policies in place and don’t plan to create them. But an inmate advocacy program touts the approach, citing instances in which former inmates were killed, sexually abused or threatened after late jail releases.

Travis County Looks at Possible Norwood Link in Murder

The Travis County district attorney's office is considering a review of the 1985 murder of Natalie Antonetti. In 2011, Dennis Davis was sentenced to 36 years for killing his ex-girlfriend. But the manner in which Antonetti was killed is eerily similar to two other murders where investigators identified the DNA of Mark Norwood. 

Texplainer: What is a Court of Inquiry?

  • 1Comment

Hey, Texplainer: A court of inquiry reversed the wrongful conviction of Timothy Cole. Now lawyers seek the same legal procedure to investigate whether evidence was withheld in the case that wrongfully sent Michael Morton to prison for 25 years. When does a judge call for a court of inquiry and what else can judges review in these prceedings?

Legal Aid Group Fights County for Unpaid Services

In rural Val Verde County, 39 defendants who are too poor to afford their own lawyers have waited years for resolution of their cases. The Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid says the county owes its lawyers hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal services. As a new legal battle between the group's lawyers and the county begins, justice remains elusive for their clients.