Publications

Joint report with Texas Fair Defense Project. For low-income Texans, a ticket for a minor offense like speeding, jaywalking, or having a broken headlight can lead to devastating consequences for the individual, as well as that person’s family and community. If someone is unable to pay a ticket right away, the cost compounds over time, often resulting in more tickets, fines and fees. Failing to pay or to appear in court can lead to an arrest warrant and jail time. Low-income Texans are being set up to fail by the way fines and fees are handled, and they are often driven deeper into poverty. The United States Supreme Court has held that incarcerating somebody because of unpaid fines or fees without a hearing to determine if they are actually able to pay the fines and fees violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment. Texas state statute also makes clear that a person cannot be jailed for unpaid fines when the nonpayment was due to indigence.
In justice courts, judges are not necessarily lawyers, and the rules of evidence may not apply. Most debt collectors have lawyers representing them; defendants in debt claim cases often do not have the benefit of a lawyer. Many Texans fall into a “justice gap” where they are not poor enough to qualify for free legal services, but also cannot afford to pay for legal services on their own. Because more and more Texans are trapped in this situation, many litigants are left arguing their cases on their own or “pro se,” without the help of a skilled advocate. Key Findings: 1: Court website information is more helpful to plaintiffs than to defendants. 2: Most courts provide plaintiffs with forms to file debt claim cases. 3: No court provided defendants with answer forms specific to debt claim cases. 4: Links to applicable rules of civil procedure are available on most, but not all court websites.
Dangerous Discipline is a report from Texas Appleseed and Texans Care for Children. Data collected from Texas school districts, municipal courts, juvenile probation departments, the Texas Education Agency, and student surveys show that students in Texas schools are arrested, are sent to adult criminal courts, referred to juvenile probation, and experience use of force incidents at alarming rates, often for relatively minor misbehaviors. These punitive discipline methods are disproportionately used against Black and Latino students and youth with disabilities even though students of color are no more likely to misbehave, and students with disabilities should be receiving supports from their schools.
Cities can make a difference for their citizens and local economies by enacting policies that constrain abuses surrounding high-cost payday and auto title loans and encouraging productive market options, such as low-cost loan products and local initiatives to promote financial well-being across neighborhoods in our cities. "A Toolkit for Cities" lays out specific opportunities any city can pursue, highlights benefits to cities and overall communities, and includes quick facts, tips, and case study examples of programs locally and across the nation. The toolkit includes details from how and why to partner with a local Council of Government (COG) to investing in low-cost lending programs to participating in an employer-based affordable loan program.
Cities can make a difference for their citizens and local economies by enacting policies that constrain abuses surrounding high-cost payday and auto title loans and encouraging productive market options, such as low-cost loan products and local initiatives to promote financial well-being across neighborhoods in our cities. "A Toolkit for Cities" lays out specific opportunities any city can pursue, highlights benefits to cities and overall communities, and includes quick facts, tips, and case study examples of programs locally and across the nation. The toolkit includes details from how and why to partner with a local Council of Government (COG) to investing in low-cost lending programs to participating in an employer-based affordable loan program.

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