REGISTERING VOTERS BEHIND BARS
Our campaign aims to register eligible inmates and their family members during visitation. This first-of-its-kind ambitious partnership between Houston Justice, the Harris County Sheriff's Department, and the Harris County Tax Assessor's Office will serve as a pilot as we expand moving forward.
Our campaign has three main issue areas:
- Inmate access to Voting and Voter Registration . (More Info Here)
- Improving Jail Safety and Standards
- Diversifying the Grand Jury System in Harris County
According to this Houston Press Article "Harris County has one of the highest rates of pre-trial, legally innocent defendants in lockup. According to jail population reports from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards... In Harris County that number is 70 percent (Dallas County, meanwhile, has an even higher pre-trial detention rate of about 74 percent).
That means roughly 7,000 of the 10,000 inmates in the Harris County Jail on any given day haven't been charged with a crime yet. These inmates won't be able to ride to a voting booth and vote because they're incarcerated.
Though inmates currently have the right to vote by mail, many don't know this, and there's not a mechanism in place at the jail to make this a reality. Read more about that project, here.
For the 2017 election cycle, Houston Justice's Inmate Justice Project will:
- register voters in the county jail and their families,
- move the Sheriff's Department, County Clerk's Office, and County Tax Assessor Collector's Office to create an ongoing mechanism for voting around election time, and
- create and issue a voter's guide for each item on the ballot.
What We've Achieved
- Beginning in 2014, we collected grand jury applications from diverse communities across Houston. ABC 13 Story Here
- We lobbied then DA Devon Anderson to support Grand Jury reform in the upcoming legislative session. Here's the resulting OpEd from her office.
- After testifying at the Texas Capitol, the Grand Jury selection process changed effective 2016. Houston Chronicle story here.
INMATE JUSTICE PROJECT TEAM