TCJC Wants Drug Policy Reforms Added to Texas Special Session Call

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| Source: Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Austin, TX, Aug. 02, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) calls on Governor Greg Abbott to expand the call of the Special Legislative Session to fix the state’s dangerously outdated drug policies.
 
Doug Smith, a Policy Analyst for TCJC, asserts, “Our current system of arresting and incarcerating people for possessing small amounts of drugs has done nothing to curb illicit drug use.  But Texas sends more than 7,000 people each year to state jail for possessing drugs in amounts less than a sugar packet. This means that taxpayers are spending more than $60 million each year to incarcerate drug users, not dealers or traffickers – and the net result is a 63 percent re-arrest rate.  The system is failing our families and communities.”
 
Representative Joe Moody, Chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, agrees: "The war on drugs has been devastating – leaving prisons and jails over-filled on the taxpayer’s dime, distracting law enforcement from crimes with real victims who need justice, and making millions of people unemployable, all with no significant impact on drug use in this state.  It's time to right-size drug penalties and get smarter on drug enforcement.  I've been leading the charge on marijuana reform, but the system itself needs to change at all levels."
 
Kathryn Freeman, the Director of Public Policy at the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, says, “It is hard to imagine designing a system more unlikely to improve public safety and achieve healthy communities. We are wasting lives and wasting dollars, money that could be used to increase community supports to treat addiction and mental illness.”
 
Chairman Moody plans to hold public hearings on several bills not included on the special session call that will address Texas’ drug crisis.  HB 241 by Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson will decrease penalties for low-level possession from a felony to the highest misdemeanor class, saving the state millions of dollars that can be reinvested in programs that work. The Committee will also hear HB 240 by Chairwoman Thompson, which creates a .02 gram minimum for a drug possession charge; this will reduce the current high burden on crime labs and ensure that amounts warranting arrest are fully test-able by both the prosecution and defense.  Chairwoman Thompson states, “We have an opportunity to create healthier communities and a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system.”
 
The Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will also hear Chairman Moody’s HB 334, which will create a civil rather than criminal penalty for possessing less than a gram of marijuana, also saving counties millions of dollars by removing cases that do not constitute threats to public safety from the criminal courts.
 
TCJC urges Governor Abbott to include drug policy reform on the special session call, allowing these important pieces of legislation to be debated.

About the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC)

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition works with peers, policy-makers, practitioners, and community members to identify and promote smart justice policies that safely reduce the state’s costly over-reliance on incarceration – creating stronger families, less taxpayer waste, and safer communities.

About the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC)

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition works with peers, policy-makers, practitioners, and community members to identify and promote smart justice policies that safely reduce the state’s costly over-reliance on incarceration – creating stronger families, less taxpayer waste, and safer communities

 

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A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/78699294-441d-4404-a0fd-6099e6d31b2e

Brianna McKinney
Bloom Communications for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
512-535-5066
brianna@bloom-comm.com