Jolie McCullough, Texas Tribune

Jolie McCullough develops data interactives and news apps and reports on criminal justice issues for the Texas Tribune. She came to the Tribune in early 2015 from the Albuquerque Journal, where her work as a web designer and developer earned her national recognition. She was at the Journal for four years and specialized in interactive maps and data-driven special projects. She is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; while there, she interned as a reporter and online producer at the Arizona Republic and served as the web editor of the student-run newspaper, the State Press.

Texas is spending $45 million on 300,000 new coronavirus tests to largely be used in the infected state prison system, according to a Texas Department of Emergency Management purchase order.

Within the walls of Texas prisons overrun with the new coronavirus, information on its spread is still scarce, and the people locked up and working inside are terrified.

As the new coronavirus continues to spread in Texas’ two biggest county jails, Gov. Greg Abbott has made it harder for thousands of inmates to get out of local lockups.

The first Texas prisoner has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Tuesday the 37-year-old man, who has a preexisting respiratory condition, is being treated at the prison system’s hospital in Galveston and has been there for three days. 

Steven Hopwood, a 61-year-old man with a history of pneumonia and scarring on his lungs, was all but set to get out of jail this week. He planned to plead guilty to bail jumping charges at his scheduled court hearing on Thursday in Lavaca County, and his attorneys expected he’d be able to go home and get probation.

The Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio is a city within a city — with a movie theater, a bowling alley, and its own school district. In the last month, it also became Texas’ ground zero for the new coronavirus.

Following a declining inmate population and dangerous understaffing in Texas prisons, the state is closing two of its more than 100 lockups.

Getty/iStock

After Texas legalized hemp and threw marijuana prosecution into chaos last year, prosecutors filed far fewer criminal charges, police departments paid for private testing and public crime labs were struggling to catch up.

From The Texas Tribune:

Texas' highest criminal court Friday afternoon halted Rodney Reed's execution and sent his case back to the trial court to further review his claims of suppressed evidence, false testimony and, biggest of all, that he is innocent of the murder that landed him on death row more than 20 years ago.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has joined the fast-growing calls from Texas lawmakers and A-list celebrities to take a closer look at the death sentence of Rodney Reed.

Cruz called efforts to halt the execution of Reed “a remarkable bipartisan coalition” on Friday night, the day before hundreds of people rallied outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion in support of Reed.

Tears often filled the eyes of the women in this Texas prison town as they prepared for their upcoming release from the system after years or even decades of incarceration.

The women sometimes wiped them away as they recalled trauma and grief they’d long ignored in a harsh prison environment. But their eyes also welled up when they expressed gratitude for a new program they hope will keep them from ever coming back to this or any other lockup.

Days after a federal judge threatened to jail Texas prison officials for violating a settlement agreement to put some inmates in air conditioned housing, the top Texas Department of Criminal Justice leader admitted in open court that the agency broke federal orders and that keeping inmates in temperatures above 100 degrees creates a serious health risk.

The scientists think they’ve come up with a solution to Texas’ pot problem.

Forensic and crime lab experts are optimistic state and local officials will support a new proposal that would allow for a faster, cheaper way to test suspected marijuana under the state’s new definition of the drug.


 

State leaders have recently cheered record-low unemployment rates in Texas. But the economic success has made it that much harder for the state to run a crucial agency — it can’t keep its prisons staffed.

Jolie McCullough / The Texas Tribune

The Texas House wants to give the state prison system $160 million more to help care for inmates. The Senate wants to cut funding.

From The Texas Tribune:

While the state's Republican leaders appear in sync on issues like school finance and property taxes, they clearly see things differently when it comes to at least one thing: prison health care.

Texas again executed far more inmates than any other state in 2018, according to year-end reports released Friday by two groups critical of the death penalty.

Pages