As a native Texan, I first interned at TCRP almost 20 years ago. Even then, I felt immediately at home among like-minded justice fighters.
Prior to returning, I worked with Disability Rights Texas for 16 years in numerous roles. I co-founded the agency’s foster care work, launched a partnership to provide education advocacy to probation involved youth, and supervised the agency’s education team–focusing largely on cases to dismantle the school to prison pipeline.
In coalition, I was proud to end the illegal cap on special education enrollment, drastically reduce the misuse of Class C misdemeanors in schools, decriminalize truancy, and win numerous cases for access to education in county jails.
My clients with disabilities were mostly low-income children of color, many of whom were also LGBTQIA+ and involved in foster care. Too often clients face barriers getting basic support in their schools and communities. Children were criminalized for even minor misconduct at school. In the community, police would respond to calls if a client was perceived as suicidal, because most communities in Texas haven’t developed alternative crisis response. All too often police would escalate the situation, resulting in arrest or injury.
With these approaches to Texans needing social service support, is it any surprise our state incarcerates more people than any other? Once incarcerated, conditions are atrocious. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) is nearing total collapse because of understaffing. And in the Texas adult prison system, only a quarter of those incarcerated have air conditioning.
That is why I am thrilled to return to TCRP as Director of the Criminal Injustice Program at this critical time. While the challenges we face grow by the day, the talented team at TCRP is determined to fight back to end criminal injustice in Texas.
TCRP staff at Welcome Reception for Dustin in Houston Office: (back row, left to right) Mimi Marziani, Christopher Rivera, Ian Powe, Dustin Rynders, Christina Beeler, (front row left to right) Miguel Rivera, and Travis Fife.
Our team is working to get police out of schools, support the charitable bail organizations that get people too poor to pay bail out of prison, deliver justice to a family who lost a loved one to police violence and so much more.
We are excited to continue this work to break down the injustice in our criminal legal system alongside all of you. Thank you for being in the fight with us.
Contribute to the Criminal Injustice Team’s work here!
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