R2J Newsletter Issue #1


Texas Organizing Project presents


A newsletter to end mass incarceration

February 2021 / Issue 1

Para la edición en español, haga clic aquí.

Welcome to TOP’s first Right2Justice newsletter, where we’ll be providing you with updates on our efforts to reimagine our legal system. Stay tuned for our next edition later this year! Click here for a PDF version.


We are all Justice Defenders

Texas Organizing Project (TOP) is part of a national movement to reimagine the legal system, one District Attorney (DA) at time. Utilizing an organizing strategy that punches with two fists, people power and political power, we’ve helped get elected five reform-minded DAs across Texas by running large-scale get-out the-vote programs that focus on increasing the participation of Black and Latino voters, and most importantly, holding the DAs accountable through their tenure in office. Indeed, the day after the election is when our real work — as Justice Defenders begins! Justice Defenders can be any of one of us. They can be a DA who has made a commitment to do their part to end mass incarceration or a community leader who links arms with their neighbor and speaks truth to power.

DAs in particular wield a substantial amount of power throughout the judicial process, from charging decisions, to sentencing recommendations. How?

They review and decide on charges for criminal cases, either:

  • Prosecuting the accused, or
  • Redirecting them to diversion programs, or
  • Dismissing the case

They also serve us by:

  • Setting bail recommendations for the accused, and
  • Representing the state and victims in trial, and
  • Making recommendations on conviction sentences



Meet a Justice Defender

Every newsletter, we will spotlight a new Justice Defender on the Right2Justice Campaign.

Harris County member Synnachia McQueen Jr. knows firsthand the failings of our legal system. His first book, Silenced But Determined (2019), details his experience in the Harris County Jail. Wrongfully arrested in 1979, Synnachia was unable to afford bail and was assigned an incompetent court-appointed attorney. These barriers resulted in the loss of his job, friends, and family. Now, decades later, Synnachia fights to change this system, not just in Texas, but nationwide.

The five progressive Texas DAs on the team


Bexar County:
District Attorney Joe Gonzales

DA Gonzales believes that “every person should have equal rights and opportunities under the legal  system,” and has prioritized working on bail reform, rehabilitation, and victim-focused prosecution, as well as increased/enhanced training of county prosecutors, and office transparency. TOP endorsed Gonzales in 2018; this is his first term in office. His term is up in 2022.


Travis County:
District Attorney José Garza

DA Garza has worked in several labor and legal-related positions, including as Director of Workers Defense Project (WDP), a grassroots organizing nonprofit based in Austin that advocates for the rights and safety of low-wage workers. He’s working to end cash bail in Travis County, create more diversion programs, and protect our immigrant community within the legal system. TOP endorsed Garza in 2020; this is his first term in office. His term is up in 2024.


Nueces County:
District Attorney Mark Gonzalez

Since his election, DA Gonzalez has made several changes to the District Attorney’s Office, including but not limited to, instituting an open book policy in order to emphasize their commitment to transparency, and with the support of local law enforcement agencies, launching a cite and release program for qualifying Class A and B misdemeanors. TOP endorsed Gonzalez in 2020; this is his second term in office. His term is up in 2024.


Dallas County:
District Attorney John Creuzot

DA Creuzot has served Dallas for over three decades in several positions within the legal system. As a Criminal District Court Judge, he created the Dallas Initiative for Diversion and Expedited Rehabilitation and Treatment program. Since being elected into office as District Attorney, Creuzot has initiated sentencing-reform policies and even instituted policies on his refusal to prosecute for certain low-level offenses that are better handled outside of court. TOP endorsed Creuzot in 2018; this is his first term in office. His term is up in 2022.


Fort Bend County:
District Attorney Brian Middleton

DA Middleton has accumulated extensive work experience within the legal system over the years, which allowed him to act fast on reform once elected. Within the first year of taking office, he launched four new diversion programs and established the first Public Integrity Division (which handles the investigation and prosecution of criminal wrongdoing by public servants and elected officials). TOP endorsed Middleton in 2018 and he is the first Black person to serve as District Attorney in Ft. Bend County. This is his first term in office. His term is up in 2022.


Justice Can't Wait

Justice can’t wait

For the 87th State Legislative Session, TOP is introducing our Justice Can’t Wait legislative agenda, pushing for justice-related solutions at the state level. Identified by our members, the priorities are:

Bail Reform:

  • Ending wealth-based detention
  • Requiring efficient release for allegations in most minor cases
  • Ensuring bail hearings are speedy and fair
  • Providing people with pre-trial services to help them get back to court and comply with court-ordered conditions of release


  • Ending impunity for police brutality
  • Fixing use of force standards
  • Demilitarizing police departments
  • Getting police out of schools
  • Creating a better standard body camera footage release
  • Improving police oversight


  • Expunging arrest records of those not convicted
  • Raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction


End Cash Bail


At any given time, over 65% of all people detained in Texas county jails are incarcerated on a pre-trial status, and majority of them experience dire consequences as a result of their detainment, such as loss of housing, employment, education opportunities, and child custody. In some cases, people are even coerced into pleading guilty for offenses they did not commit in exchange for time served, in an attempt to be released sooner.

Since 2018, we’ve bailed out more than 300 people from the Bexar, Harris, and Dallas county jails and have provided the resources and support needed to return to court and comply with court-ordered conditions of release, such housing, transportation, food, child care, etc. While certainly impactful at a more personal level, bailouts are only one step in our greater vision of transforming our legal system. During the 2021 Texas legislative session, TOP intends to work with allies and lawmakers to introduce a member-driven bill to reform the cash bail system. The bill would end wealth-based detention and ensure that bail hearings are being conducted in a just manner.

End Cash Bail

Local Campaigns

Harris County highlights:
– After winning cite & release in Houston, the Harris County Right2Justice team has now focused their efforts on pushing for more transparent police union contract negotiations to increase police accountability.
– Since our misdemeanor bail reform win in 2019, efforts have moved forward for felony bail reform. The Right2Justice team hosts monthly #EndCashBail virtual townhalls. Additional weekly social media actions have been held to review which judges are detaining the most people on a pre-trial basis. Join the fight: Contact Anza at 832-880-1653 / abecnel@organizetexas.org

Dallas County highlights:
– The Dallas R2J team has hit the ground running in 2021, base-building and getting more input and support from Dallas community members who want to see our legal system transformed from the inside out. Recently, the R2J team was able to prevent a “cruising” ordinance from being passed, which would have let police officers stop anybody that might have driven by an officer twice over a certain period of time. 
– Still in the midst of a bail reform lawsuit, the Dallas County Right2Justice team met with Chief Public Defender Lynn Richardson in an effort to create an efficient bail out system, similar to Bexar County’s. Moving forward, the team will start creating plans to be able to bail out more people. Join the fight: Contact Carvell at 214-934-8558 / dcbowens@organizetexas.org

Bexar County highlights:
– In 2020, the Bexar County Right2Justice team welcomed a Bail Disrupter to support our increasingly larger bail out program, resulting in more than 250 people being released from the Bexar County Jail so far.
– The Bexar County Right2Justice team also helped our ally Fix SAPD launch a petition drive last year with the purpose of ridding Chapters 143 and 174 from the Local Government Code, which would eliminate some of the barriers to achieving greater police accountability. The chapters uphold lenient standards for discipling police officers and disallows for community oversight of police departments. Learn more about the campaign and our success so far to get the measure on the city’s May ballot!
Join the fight: Contact Jasmine at 210-542-2262 / jestrada@organizetexas.org


We’re fighting to end cash bail, which disproportionately keeps Black and Latino people behind bars before their trial simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom. Until that day, we commit to posting bail for our neighbors who cannot afford it.

Do you have a loved one who is currently incarcerated pre-trial and needs bail out assistance?

Apply for our bail out program at topbailouts.com.

Want to donate to the community bail fund? Donate at topjustice.org

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