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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable

September 2016

Local News and Events 

Mark Your Calendar: Free Talk by Just Mercy Author Bryan Stevenson on September 27th

Bryan Stevenson will be speaking at a free event at the LBJ School Auditorium at the University of Texas on September 27th at 7:00 p.m. Stevenson is a dynamic speaker and a renowned lawyer who has represented capital defendants and prisoners for more than 30 years. He is a faculty member at NYU School of Law and the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. Stevenson’s work has won him international acclaim. He has received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award Prize and the Olaf Palme Prize in Sweden for human rights, and he is the author of the NY Times Bestseller book Just Mercy (which will soon be made into a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan).
Stevenson will speak as part of the Blandy Lectures presented by the Seminary of the Southwest. The event is co-sponsored by the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law. The talk is free and open to the public – no RSVP necessary. 

Parking for the event will be available in the lot on Red River adjacent to the LBJ School.   

Sheriff’s Office to Host Building Bridges Town Hall on September 3rd

Please join the Travis County Sheriff's Office for a Town Hall meeting on a community partnership approach to public safety issues.
  • Date: Saturday, September 3, 2016
  • Time: 1:30pm – 3:30pm
  • Place: Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex 1156 Hargrave St., Austin, TX 78702
  • Agenda: 
    • Networking and Registration
    • Introductions and Topics of Discussion
    • Use of Force: What is acceptable and what is unacceptable, presented by Deputy Reyna
    • Use of Deadly Force: What is acceptable and what is unacceptable, presented by Deputy Reyna
    • Dealing with Difficult Persons: What is acceptable and what is unacceptable, presented by Deputy Popp
    • General Questions and Answers
    • Closing Remarks/Adjournment
NAACP Youth Council will emcee and Nelson Linder, NAACP Austin Branch, will be the moderator. For more information please email Mike Manor at

Department of Justice Ends Contracts with Five Private Prisons in Texas


Private companies will lose their contracts to operate five federal prisons in Texas under a U.S. Department of Justice plan to phase out private management of federal lockups nationwide. The agency's inspector general's office concluded in a recent report that prisons run by private companies have greater problems with contraband, inmate discipline and other issues than those run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In a recent memo, U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Sally Yates said, "Private companies accommodated the Bureau of Prisons when the federal inmate population grew beyond what it could handle, but it's time for a change." “The DOJ’s decision to phase out its use of troubled for-profit private prisons may be a turning point for an industry that has continued to win federal contracts despite well-documented operational problems,” said Bob Libal, the Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. It's unclear whether the Bureau of Prisons will take over privately run facilities or relocate inmates as existing contracts expire. To learn more click here. To see the Texas Tribune inventory of Texas prison units click here

The Texas Justice Initiative: New Study about Deaths in the Criminal Justice System

The launch of a new project, the Texas Justice Initiative, within the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at UT Austin is underway. Researchers created an online interactive database documenting 6,913 deaths in custody in Texas from 2005-2015 and released a report on the data findings. The 11-year dataset which forms the basis for the website and report includes deaths in police interactions, jails and prisons, along with the deceased's name, demographic information, time and place of death, cause of death, length of time in custody and a narrative submitted by the custodian. The website is accessible at

The project aims to bring attention to the thousands of people who have died in interactions with Texas law enforcement and in Texas jails and prisons, more than 1,900 of whom had not been convicted of a crimeThe ultimate goal is to help inform policy to prevent future deaths. 

Other News and Reports 

The National Employment Law Project Releases a Policy Brief in Response to New "Ban the Box" Studies

The National Employment Law Project recently released the Policy Brief "Racial Profiling in Hiring: A Critique of New "Ban the Box" Studies". The article argues against claims that "Banning the Box" has been shown to do more harm than good. It sites four pieces of research: 
  • The core problem raised by the studies is not "Ban the Box" but entrenched racism in the hiring process, which manifests as racial profiling of African Americans as “criminals.” 
  • "Ban the Box" is working, both by increasing employment opportunities for people with records and by changing employer attitudes toward hiring people with records.
  • When closely scrutinized, the new studies do not support the conclusion that "Ban the Box" policies are responsible for the depressed hiring of African Americans.
  • The studies highlight the need for a more robust policy response to both boost job opportunities for people with records and tackle race discrimination in the hiring process—not a repeal of "Ban the Box" laws.
The article states that serious and objective research evaluating "Ban the Box" and other policies that seek to improve job opportunities for people with records and communities of color are critically necessary to inform and advance meaningful policy reforms. The new "Ban the Box" studies warrant much more careful scrutiny before their findings should be given weight. To read the full article click here

The Federal Interagency Reentry Council: A Record of Progress and a Roadmap for the Future

“All too often, returning citizens face enormous barriers that persist long after they have paid their debts to society – and with over 600,000 people released from federal and state prisons every year, how we treat reentering individuals is a question with far-reaching implications for all of us,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “That’s why the Reentry Council is dedicated to expanding access to the foundations of a stable life – employment, education, housing, healthcare, and civic participation – so that formerly incarcerated individuals can receive a true second chance, and so that every American can enjoy stronger and safer communities.”

Comprised of more than 20 federal agencies, the Reentry Council works to improve outcomes related to employment, education, housing, health and child welfare.  Reentry Council agencies coordinate and leverage existing federal resources; dispel myths and clarify policies; elevate programs and policies that work; and reduce the policy barriers to successful reentry.

The Presidential Memorandum that formally established the Federal Interagency Reentry Council mandated a report documenting the Council’s accomplishments to date and a map of plans moving forward. Information about the Council can be found below:  

New Report Helps United Kingdom Advance Criminal Justice Reform

Advocates pushing for major changes to the UK criminal justice system have the facts on their side: the current punitive approach is failing to prevent crime, reduce recidivism, or make communities safer. Public assumptions about who commits crimes, why, and what to do about it are blocking the messages about the benefits of more rehabilitative approaches. "New Narratives: Changing the Frame on Crime and Justice", a new MessageMemo from FrameWorks Institute, offers UK communicators a framing strategy to reset assumptions and shift the terms of the public conversation. It debuts the findings of several recent framing experiments and builds on a previous study that compared public and expert understandings of crime, punishment, and justice.
Among the key findings:
  • The dominant understanding that crime is a rational, calculated act, is so strong, and so unproductive, that multiple communications strategies must be employed to dislodge it.
  • The values of national progress, problem-solving, and human potential all helped people consider a wide range of possible alternative responses to crime.
  • In contrast, appeals to the value of cost efficiency increased people's support for punitive approaches and decreased support for prevention and rehabilitation.
  • In testing, the metaphor "Channeling Crime" helped the public understand the expert view that incarceration doesn't deter crime, but rather, encourages recidivism.

The Vera Institute of Justice Implements the New Era of Vera

The Vera Institute of Justice, an organization that works to drive change and to urgently build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities, implemented the New Era of Vera. They have recently retooled their entire brand and virtual front door. They reframed their vision and mission to reflect their purpose to drive change: "We envision a society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for everyone." Their new website now tells the story of their work and the people they work with—and who that work affects. They have always stood for Securing Equal JusticeEnding Mass Incarceration, and Strengthening Families and Communities, but now they have a new way of framing that information for the public. 

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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable · Palm Square · 100 North Interstate 35 · Austin, TX 78701 · USA

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