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Kevin Garrett 2018-2020 Peer Policy Fellow (Hogg Foundation for Mental Health)

Kevin Garrett

Kevin Garrett, a native of Ft. Worth, became the proud recipient of a two-year Hogg Peer Policy Fellowship in 2018. As a fellow, he works for Texas Jail Project on issues having to do with mental health as well as contributing to their mission to improve conditions and treatment of people in Texas county jails. The fellowship provides a mentor, opportunities to participate in the legislative session, professional development, and a trip to Washington D.C. to network with national-level mental health policy advocates.

Garrett was formerly incarcerated in both county jails and in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system. While in TDCJ, he saw that individuals needing mental health and substance abuse services were all given a generic diagnosis and housed in general population with other offenders.

“The system is full of people who shouldn’t be here,” Garrett recalls. Having experienced the counterproductive and damaging aspects of jails and prisons, he became more inquisitive about how the system works. The end of his stay in TDCJ would mark the beginning of his personal quest for recovery, and eventually, the study of regulations and laws of the criminal justice system in Texas.

With the assistance of others in recovery, Garrett went from being homeless in 2006 to graduating magna cum laude from Texas Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies in 2011.

In the spring of 2018, Garrett earned his JD from the Oklahoma City University School of Law, earning the CALI award in Texas criminal procedure given to the student with the highest grade in a class. Garrett is now using both his lived experience and his legal knowledge in his new policy fellowship, where he hopes to shape policy and practices among stakeholders and legislators.

He also hopes to be eligible to take the Texas Bar Examination one day.

Updated 10/29/2019

During the 86th Texas Legislature, Kevin was an integral part of TJP, spearheading six bills to help transform the state’s jails into safer and healthier facilities. One of these, HB 1651, was signed into law in September and will help nearly 5,000 pregnant inmates annually in getting access to better prenatal care. He also represented TJP in the Justice and Mental Health Coalition led by NAMI TX which had several legislative wins including HB 601, HB 3116, HB 4468 and HB 362 which cover a range of improvements to persons with mental illness and disabilities held in county jails.

Kevin is proud to serve on the State Bar of Texas’ Disability Issues Committee and Mental Health sub-committee. In September, he was appointed to the Legislative Research Committee of the state’s Judicial Commission on Mental Health. This latter appointment from both the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, comprises thirteen judges, two legislators, two mental health PhDs, a CEO, and a law professor. Garrett is the only appointee on the committee with lived experience.