Criminal Justice

3.5 minute read

Our Position

Dark grey icon of the scales of justiceOur criminal justice priorities in 2023 included improved medical care, increasing the use of medically recommended parole, and accessible and equitable educational and reentry programming.

In 2023, we successfully advocated for two measures that will improves the lives of Texans with disabilities in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ):

Many other reforms we worked on in 2023 hit snags or ran out of time before they could make it to passage: increasing the use of medically recommended parole, accessible and equitable educational and reentry programming, establishing a Family Liaison position at county jails, the reinstatement of Pell Grants for incarcerated students, and others. We are disappointed that so much promising change did not come to pass.

The Latest

March 8, 2023: our Jennifer Toon recaps the Justice Impacted Girls and Women's Rally on Fox 7

May 23, 2022: view the recording of Reinstating Pell for Incarcerated Students: A Primer for Texas Advocates, a virtual event on which CTD's Jolene Sanders-Foster and Jennifer Toon were among the panelists.


In 2021, CTD made major strides into the area of criminal justice. 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 both kids and adults with mental health concerns and/or an intellectual or developmental disability have the support they needed in both county and state facilities. We will continue these efforts into 2023. This will include improved medical care, increasing the use of medically recommended parole, and accessible and equitable educational and reentry programming.

Areas of focus in 2021 included:

County Jails

SB 49 (Zaffirini), effective September 2021, ensures that officials, including sheriffs and personal bond officers, who are responsible 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), effective September 2021, 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.

Further Reading