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Shedding Light

Jul 19th, 2021 | Category: TJP Newsletter

In case you missed it, Texas Jail Project launched Shedding Light – a digital archive of interviews, personal essays, poetry, and records collected from people in county jails and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration with Civil Rights Corps and Zealous. In a time of unprecedented caging and in the middle of a pandemic, we have conducted more than 1,000 interviews with those inside county jails. Our mission? Listen empathetically to the voices of people in jail.


Read here how Arnold Ventures digs into the site, describing it as “an interactive project that allows people to hear phone calls and read letters first hand from people stuck in Texas jails during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The overwhelming majority of folks featured on Shedding Light are legally innocent. Most are arbitrarily assigned high bail which they cannot afford, especially if they are people of color. The court system has slowed to a crawl during the pandemic, and so those held pretrial are trapped in a system best described as a combination of a poorhouse and a plantation.

Awaiting trial, our community members are likely to lose their jobs, homes and even families. Often traumatized by the chaotic conditions, many are also exposed to COVID-19, experience medical neglect, and fail to receive medications they were prescribed on the outside. In short, pretrial incarceration has become a potential death sentence, inflicting incalculable pain on our communities.

Special Session

Despite the crisis in our jails, Governor Abbot has put bail back on the agenda during the special session of the #TxLege. Those bills, now called HB 2 and SB 6, would significantly increase pretrial caging, by stripping judges of their discretionary power to free people, by preventing charitable bail funds from bailing out poor Texans, and by making it impossible for many of those arrested to pay bail at all. These bills expand categories of those who CANNOT receive personal bonds, but those categories are subtly misleading: a person who flails about during a psychotic episode can be deemed “violent” as is a woman resisting her abuser, and an unhoused person yelling angrily can be charged for making a “terroristic threat.”

While Texas Democrats remain out of state, we encourage you to:

-Take time to explore Shedding Light and listen to the voices of people most impacted by Abbott’s bail bills: impoverished Texans trapped in cages

-Materially support organizations like ours working to defend your pretrial liberty

-Tweet supportive messages to House Democrats, thanking them for their walkout defense of pretrial rights using hashtag #txlege

-Call or write your State Reps telling them you oppose HB 2 and SB 6 (find who represents you here)

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