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Right on Crime | March 3, 2011
In December, the Texas House Committee on Corrections, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, and the Senate Criminal Justice Committee published their recommendations for the 82nd Texas Legislature. Their reports provided a prescient forecast of the types of issues that have been coming up during this year’s session.
First, the House Committee on Corrections recommended that local school districts be required to take a more active role in reentry for youth as they leave the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) system. The Committee also recommended that the House continue to monitor the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to ensure the proper implementation of House Bill 2161, which would ensure that all offenders released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) will have a valid state ID, facilitating reentry. The Committee further recommended expanding resources to facilitate reentry, such as examining licensing limitations for ex-offenders, revisiting state laws that make it difficult for ex-offenders to find housing, and increasing business participation in Project RIO to encourage businesses to hire ex-offenders.
The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee acknowledged that some third party background check services fail to update their records when criminal records are later sealed or expunged. This creates an additional barrier to reentry for some offenders. The Committee recommended reforming licensing requirements and enhancing monetary penalties for erroneous reporting.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee recommended repealing legislation binding Texas to federal requirements for sex offender registration. The Committee recommended adopting a standard in Texas more effective for preserving public safety while still allowing released sex offenders to effectively reintegrate to society. The Committee also recommended improving the accuracy and efficiency of crime labs and recommended the Legislative Budget Board study the possibility of contracting with private labs in light of the problems with public crime labs in Texas. Finally, the Committee recommended several criminal justice reforms, including enhancing educational opportunities available to juvenile offenders, expanding diversion pilot programs, and possibly consolidating all juvenile justice departments in Texas into one new Department of Juvenile Justice in order to reduce bureaucratic overhead.