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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable

December 2016

Recap of October & November Roundtable Events

It has been a busy fall packed with great events – here’s a recap in case you missed anything!

UT Opportunity Forum:
Locked Out: Criminal History as a Barrier to Housing Access

The Roundtable teamed up with the UT Opportunity Forum to host Locked Out: Criminal History as a Barrier to Housing Access. You can access video of the event and the presentation here.

Travis County Vision Summit

Representatives from the Roundtable and the Reentry Advocacy Project participated in four sessions at the 4th Annual Vision Summit: Looking Toward the Future of Reentry conference hosted by the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. Planning Council Chair Helen Gaebler participated in a conversation about reentry roundtable models across the state; RAP members Lewis Conway Jr, Michael Davis and RAP and Planning Council Member Karen Keith shared their lived experiences in the panel entitled Shades of ReEntry, Vice Chair Melissa Orren and members of the housing work group presented the recently released report, Addressing Criminal History Barriers to Affordable Housing in Austin & Travis County; and Advocacy Fellow Lauren Johnson and Planning Council Member and RAP member Darwin Hamilton discussed The Evolution of Reentry highlighting how the history of the Reentry Advocacy Project and its evolution over time.

JustLeadership USA’s Emerging Leaders Training

Approximately 30 emerging leaders with prior involvement in the criminal justice system attended the Emerging Leaders training in Austin at Huston-Tillotson University on November 12th. Just Leadership USA believes that America’s most challenging barrier to expansive, systemic criminal and juvenile justice reform is the absence of clear and consistent leadership by those who have been directly affected by criminal justice policies. Through Emerging Leaders trainings and a 12-month Leading with Conviction training, JLUSA is building a nationwide network of advocates and organizers united by a shared vision for justice reform.

NELP Second Chance Summit: San Francisco December 8th

NELP is holding the Second Chance Summit in San Francisco on December 8, 2016 focusing on how to be a business or organization that adopts fair-chance hiring for workers with records. This summit will bring together employers and experts from around the country, including NELP senior staff attorney Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, to explore the enormous untapped workforce of the 70 million people with records in the United States. The Second Chance Summit is an opportunity for business, nonprofit and government leaders to explore opportunities and resources for employing people with criminal backgrounds. The Summit will feature compelling speakers, content-rich panel discussions, and ample networking opportunities. Co-hosted by Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, #cut50, and REDF and sponsored in part by the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County and GoodHire, the Summit is designed for business leaders and human resources professionals to discover the enormous untapped potential of this part of the workforce.


  • Morning Keynote: Van Jones - President of The Dream Corps, Co-founder of #cut50
  • Second Chance Employee Panel
  • Second Chance Employer Panel

Workshop Sessions

  • Gaining Leadership Buy-In - Gain tips for discussing Second Chance employment with business owners, executives and board members to build valuable leadership support
  • Employer Insights for Nonprofits - A rare opportunity for nonprofits to hear directly from employers about their needs and expectations for Second Chance candidates, and for engaging well with the private sector
  • Debunking the Myths - Legal and insurance professionals will address the common misconceptions about employing and insuring people with criminal backgrounds in a variety of industries
  • Building Your Talent Pipeline - Learn how some nontraditional channels for recruiting job candidates can yield outstanding talent, and how to find these channels in your area
  • Best Hiring Practices - Plain and Simple. How to successfully interview, assess, and select the very best Second Chance candidates for your company
  • Good to Great Employees Through Engagement - Build a more motivated and loyal workforce - Learn how even simple offerings to support employees can yield great benefits
Register Here

UT Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic Issues New Report on How to Reduce Mental Health-Related Deaths in Texas Jails 

County jails around Texas, including the smallest rural jails, regularly house inmates with mental disorders and co-occurring substance use disorders. These inmates have substantial needs for health care, and when those needs are unmet, the consequences can be fatal. This report tells the stories of ten Texas families whose loved ones passed away in county jails, in order to shed light on these preventable tragedies. The report also summarizes twelve key policy recommendations, which can be used by sheriffs, county officials, and state policymakers to reduce and help eliminate these jail deaths. A significant percentage of county jail inmates have mental disorders. Some studies estimate that in the nation’s jails, 14.5 percent of men and 31 percent of women suffer from serious mental illness. Over 70 percent of people in jails who have serious mental illness also suffer from co-occurring substance use disorders. Despite this, studies show that between 83 and 89 percent of people in jails and prisons do not receive adequate care. People with mental disorders suffer in incarcerated settings. Jails are not designed or operated to provide a therapeutic setting; the lights, noise, rules, and real and perceived threats of violence are especially harmful to inmates with mental disorders. They are likely to stay for longer periods, have difficulty following facility guidelines, and spend more time in solitary confinement. Often, their mental health deteriorates, making them harder to manage for staff.
Read Full Report

Blanket Criminal History Policies Create a Rental Hurdle for Thousands

Travis Putnam Hill with Reporting Texas recently reported on the challenges that thousands of Texans with criminal histories face in finding housing. Referencing the Roundtable’s recent Locked Out (link) report, the article profiles two local men who are having trouble accessing housing due to their criminal backgrounds.
More than one in four adults in the U.S. has a criminal record, according to the National Employment Law Project. Each year since 2006, Texas state prisons have released more than 70,000 inmates, and in 2015, there were more than 829,000 arrests in the state.

With affordable housing in short supply in Austin and other major cities, and a growing awareness of the uneven implementation of criminal justice, housing providers are facing pressure to reconsider blanket rejections of people based on criminal histories.
Read the Full Article Here

Judicial Council Releases Recommendations on Bail Reform 


The Texas Judicial Council's long-awaited recommendations on bail reform and reducing pretrial detention are finally out. AP had a recent story highlighting the Judicial Council effort in the context of Harris County's bail reform efforts. The Judicial Council's formal resolution recommended to the Texas Legislature that the law be changed to:

  • Require defendants arrested for jailable misdemeanors and felonies to be assessed using a validated pretrial risk assessment prior to appearance before a magistrate under Article 15.17, Code of Criminal Procedure; 
  • Amend the Texas Constitution bail provision and related bail statutes to provide for a presumption of pretrial release through personal bond, leaving discretion with judges to utilize all existing forms of bail; 
  • Amend the Texas Constitution and enact related statutes to provide that defendants posing a high flight risk and/or high risk to community safety may be held in jail without bail pending trial after certain findings are made by a magistrate and a detention hearing is held; 
  • Provide funding to ensure that pretrial supervision is available to defendants released on a pretrial release bond so that those defendants are adequately supervised; 
  • Provide funding to ensure that magistrates making pretrial release decisions are adequately trained on evidence-based pretrial decision-making and appropriate supervision levels; 
  • Ensure that data on pretrial release decisions is collected and maintained for further review; 
  • Expressly authorize the Court of Criminal Appeals to adopt any necessary rules to implement the provisions enacted by the Legislature pursuant to these recommendations; and 
  • Provide for a sufficient transition period to implement the provisions of these recommendations.
Read the Full Report Here

The Dutch Prison Crisis: A Shortage of Prisoners

A decade ago the Netherlands had one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe, but it now claims one of the lowest - 57 people per 100,000 of the population, compared with 148 in England and Wales. But better rehabilitation is not the only reason for the sharp decline in the Dutch prison population - from 14,468 in 2005 to 8,245 last year - a drop of 43%. The peak in 2005 was partly due to improved screening at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, which resulted in an explosion in the numbers of drug mules caught carrying cocaine. Today the police have new priorities, according to Pauline Schuyt, a criminal law professor from the southern city of Leiden. "They have shifted their focus away from drugs and now concentrate on fighting human trafficking and terrorism," she says. In addition, Dutch judges often use alternatives to prison such as community service orders, fines and electronic tagging of offenders. Angeline van Dijk, director of the prison service in the Netherlands, says jail is increasingly used for those who are too dangerous to release, or for vulnerable offenders who need the help available inside. "Sometimes it is better for people to stay in their jobs, stay with their families and do the punishment in another way," she says from her brightly lit office at the top of a tower block in The Hague. "We have shorter prison sentences and a decreasing crime rate here in the Netherlands so that is leading to empty cells." But while recorded crime has shrunk by 25% over the past eight years, some argue that this results from the closure of police stations, as a result of budget cuts, which makes crime harder to report.
Read the Full Article Here

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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable · Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable · 3308 Treadsoft Cove · Austin, TX 78748 · USA

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