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From Texas Standard:

President Obama has commuted the sentences of more federal inmates than the last ten presidents combined. Many of those who saw their sentence shortened are from Texas, mostly doing time on drug-related charges. They've all accepted the Obama administration's offer – until now.

At at a low-security prison in Beaumont, one inmate said no.


Texas.713/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In a time before reality TV competitions like American Ninja Warrior, more than 30,000 Texans would show up on Sundays in October to watch prisoners put on a death-defying rodeo show that would make professional cowboys think twice.

Underlying the spectacle of the Texas Prison Rodeo, which during its 50 years evolved into an entertainment event complete with superstar guests like John Wayne and Johnny Cash, were many of the civil, political and criminal justice issues that propel our conversations today – explored in depth in the new book, "Convict Cowboys: The Untold Story of the Texas Prison Rodeo."


John Burnett/NPR & Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic depictions of a crime.

The federal government is trying to disrupt the Texas operations of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. It began in California in the 1960s and spread to Texas in the 1980s. Chapters formed across the country, but the federal government decided that those in Texas were among the most brutal and violent. In 2008, the federal government launched an aggressive six-year operation that landed 75 members of the Aryan Brotherhood in prison.

This highly exclusive, all-white criminal organization rarely talks to outsiders, least of to all members of the press. But NPR’s John Burnett spoke with James “Chance” Jones, a senior major in the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT).


Robert Stringer

Most prisons in Texas have no air conditioning, creating sweltering conditions affecting not just prisoners, but prison guards as well. KUT's Nathan Bernier learns more from Brandi Grissom, the Austin bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News. 


America's death penalty is under scrutiny after a series of botched executions, drug mix-ups and difficulty acquiring lethal injection drugs. Just last month, President Obama called certain parts of capital punishment "deeply troubling."

Some say long waits and repeated last-minute delays are tantamount to torture.

Kathryn Decker from flickr

Austin City Council will soon decide whether to require employers to remove a box from initial job applications that asks applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime. They call it "banning the box."

Kathryn Decker from flickr

Have you ever applied for a job where they ask you to check a box if you have a criminal record?

Over the summer, Austin's District 4 City Council member Greg Casar put together a group to look for ways Austin businesses could change that practice, or, “ban the box.”

A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice polled over 1,000 people about how Texas currently punishes non-violent drug offenders with prison time vs. drug rehab and probation.  


Juvenile offenders in Texas were placed in solitary confinement 36,820 times last year. That’s according to state records obtained by the civil rights group called the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. 

“There’s been a lot of research about it, and the consensus seems to be that it’s pretty harmful for kids, especially kids with traumatic experience, or a kid who has a mental health concern," said Benet Magnuson, a lawyer with the coalition. "That’s actually most of the kids that we are talking about."

Tyler Pratt for KUT News

Former Williamson County resident Michael Morton was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. Then 25 years later, he was freed after DNA evidence showed he was not guilty.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Morton’s release. He spoke at the Texas Capitol about his experiences over the past 26 years, and the difficulties the Williamson County justice system presented in obtaining the evidence that eventually exonerated him.  

Morton told the audience: 

The odd thing about it is that The Innocence Project was willing to say “Look. Texas statute allows this. We will pay for all the expenses.  Just let us have it and we’ll do it." And for reasons that haven’t been elaborated on or maybe articulated, to mine or anyone else’s satisfaction that I’m aware of, is that they fought this. And fought this. And fought this.