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Tag: Texas

Inside The Fight To Protect Face-To-Face Visitation For Prisoners

Posted in Austin, Journalism, and The Establishment

When you’re behind bars, “there’s something psychologically uplifting about knowing someone is coming to visit you,” Jorge Renaud explained.

Renaud is an organizer with Grassroots Leadership and Texas Advocates for Justice who spoke with me by phone from Austin, Texas. He told me that unless you’ve been incarcerated, you can’t understand the emotional impact of a visit from a friend or loved one. His voice vibrated with emotion as he recalled those desperately needed visits, his tone expressing more than words could say.

This crucial connection with the outside world is endangered around the country, as more and more prisons and jails install video visitation systems. While the technology theoretically offers a new way to connect with prisoners—for those who can afford it—jails across the nation are also doing away with in-person visitation entirely, in favor of relying exclusively on these video visitations.

Social Media Ban Could Curb Free Speech Behind Bars

Posted in Journalism, and The Texas Observer

Prison reform activists are concerned that a new state social media policy could be used to infringe on the free speech rights of both incarcerated people and and those who support them by sharing their stories, thoughts and experiences online.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) “Offender Orientation Manual,” updated in early April, “Offenders are prohibited from maintaining active social media accounts for the purposes of soliciting, updating, or engaging others, through a third party or otherwise.”

Under the updated manual, prisoners can be penalized for infractions in a number of ways, including by receiving extra work duties or being confined to their cells.

Push Your Politicians: A Few More Words From Wendy Davis (SXSW)

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

“There shouldn’t be tension between the party and the needs of people. That’s what party is supposed to represent. I think people are more than within their rights push their politicians even if it makes them uncomfortable, to do their jobs and to not shy away from protecting women’s access to abortions, among a host of other issues as well.” — Wendy Davis

Disabled Texans Depend On Personal Care Attendants Paid Poverty Wages

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

On May 19, about two dozen disabled Texans and their personal care aides gathered at the entrance to the governor’s office chanting: “Greg Abbott, come on out! We’ve got something to talk about!” Others were inside, refusing to leave. They’d come from around the state to demand better wages for personal care attendants, the helpers on whom their independence depends.

The disabled activists at the governor’s office represented ADAPT of Texas, and the aides were from an ADAPT subgroup, Personal Attendant Coalition of Texas (PACT). At issue in Texas are the wages for a type of aide known as community attendants, who are not hired by home care services that are paid by private insurance. Instead, community attendants’ wages are paid through federal Medicaid dollars and the Texas General Revenue fund.

At the time of the protest, the base wage for community attendants was $7.86 per hour, just slightly higher than the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. By comparison, the city of Austin enforces a living hourly wage of $11 for city employees and at construction projects supported by tax incentives.

Texas Bans Fracking Bans

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

The Texas Senate on Monday approved the so-called “Denton Fracking Bill,” a proposed new law that prevents cities from exerting any local control over the energy industry.

The law is a response to a successful referendum in Denton, Texas, which banned the fracking industry from operating inside the progressive college town, located about 40 miles northwest of Dallas. Denton’s fracking ban was inspired by concerns for air and water quality, but also the fear that the industry may have caused a recent, dramatic, increase in earthquakes — a link confirmed both by local Texas scientists and a federal study by the U.S. Geological Survey that suggested fracking can activate dormant fault lines.

House Bill 40 awaits Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature. A public supporter of the oil and gas industry, Abbott will almost certainly make the bill a law.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Troy Fraser, called the bill a “carefully crafted compromise” between the interests of energy and cities, but environmental advocates scoffed at the notion.

“The oil and gas industry got the better of everyone,” said Andrew Dobbs, program director for Texas Campaign for the Environment, in a telephone interview with MintPress News.

Women Aren’t The Only Texans Grappling With Changes To Health Care Access

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

Both sides of the conflict over the Texas Omnibus Abortion Law (HB2) link abortion to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.

In January 2013, at the beginning of the biennial legislative session, anti-abortion legislators and other groups held an event called the Rally For Life. Attended by thousands, the rally was designed to build support for the passage of HB2. The bill would ultimately fail to pass in that legislative session, requiring Gov. Rick Perry to call two successive special sessions of the Legislature before he could sign it into law.

Perry attended the Rally For Life, along with other members of the state government. Attorney General and current gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott explicitly mentioned his opposition to gay marriage in Texas during his speech.

“I know this session, working together, we’ll be able to cement the fact that Texas is the most pro-family, pro-life, pro-value state in America,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the crowd, according to the Dallas Morning News.