House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Receives Interim Charges

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Receives Interim Charges

Chairman Herrero dedicated to improving the Texas criminal justice system

Austin, Texas – Today Speaker Joe Straus released the Interim Committee Charges for the 83rd Legislature. The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, Chaired by State Representative Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), will consider policy charges relevant to improving the Texas criminal justice system.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues during the interim to improve our state’s criminal justice system,” stated Rep. Herrero. “We have an opportunity to work toward a sound criminal justice policy that provides justice to the victims, gives offenders a fair process with a hope of rehabilitation, and keeps our families and communities safe.

The House Committee on Jurisprudence will address policies that include sentencing for certain youth offenders, efforts to reduce individuals with mental illness caught in the system and a history of overcriminalization.

“Today approximately 1 in 28 Texans are in our state corrections system. However, this number doesn’t give the whole picture of its affect because it does not include the victims or their families or the families of the offenders. We all have an interest in focusing our efforts on stopping the cycle of crime and protecting our loved-ones from being victims,” added Herrero.

Interim charges are policy issues assigned to each legislative committee by the Texas Speaker of the House to consider and study pertinent issues in preparation for the 84th Legislative Session.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Interim Charges are as follows:

1.      Study the classification of 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system of Texas.

2.      Study the effectiveness of deferred adjudication and orders for non-disclosure in spite of        the many exceptions to the statute. Study extending the use of expunction of criminal records history and non-disclosures to certain qualified individuals with low-level, non-violent convictions. Examine the statutorily allowed but underused non-disclosure and expunction of criminal records, and the use of deferred adjudication.

3.      Study the impact of SB 1289 (83R). Examine the sale of criminal histories that may be    erroneous as well as the lasting impact that arrest records have on individuals who are arrested but not charged or convicted. Assess the need for revision of existing statutes and consider designating an agency responsible for regulating entities involved in the industry.

4.      Examine the association between co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders and parole revocation among inmates from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Review current policies and procedures for incarcerating individuals with a dual mental health diagnosis in both state and county correctional facilities and examine potential remedies within the State’s criminal justice system to ensure that the public is protected and that individuals with a mental health diagnosis receive a continuum of mental health services. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Corrections)

5.      Examine the current pecuniary loss thresholds associated with graffiti offenses. Study the costs of enhancing the penalties associated with the offense of graffiti, as well as a study of pretrial diversion programs that exist in other states and are specific to persons convicted of graffiti offenses. Study the existing Graffiti Abatement Programs in Texas.

6.      Evaluate the approximately 1,500 non-traditional criminal offenses that can be found outside of the Penal Code. Study the feasibility of streamlining these offenses and examine ambiguities in the law. Study the existing use of the Rule of Lenity and Mens Rea requirements in Texas and the benefit of codifying both of these standards.

7.      Examine the utilization of community supervision in state jail felonies and the effectiveness of the state jail in light of its original purpose.

8.      Conduct legislative oversight and monitoring of the agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction and the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 83rd Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:

a.       consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;

b.      identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy, or eliminate;

c.       determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and

d.      identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.

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