Michael Barajas

Michael Barajas is a staff writer covering civil rights for the Observer. Before joining the Observer, he was editor of the San Antonio Current and managing editor of the Houston Press. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. You can reach him on Twitter or at [email protected].

By Michael Barajas:

Criminal Justice

New Report Finds — Surprise — Indigent Defense Attorneys Shouldn’t be Under the Control of the State Prison System

The Texas prison system controls an agency tasked with defending poor inmates accused of crimes inside Texas prisons. What could possibly go wrong?

A new report by a committee of the State Bar of Texas aims to draw attention to a glaringly obvious conflict of interest at a little-known indigent defense system in Texas. Current and former attorneys with the State Counsel for … Read More

Youth in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department's Phoenix Program
Civil Rights

Problems Hide in Plain Sight at Texas’ Youth Lockups

Critics say Texas’ five remaining juvenile prisons not only fail to rehabilitate young people but “actually make them worse.”

It was spring break 2017 at the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility, and the young inmates were more restless than normal. Some of the teens roamed the lockup, located about 20 miles east of Waco, throwing garbage, flashing gang … Read More

Politics

Meet Dave Welch, the ‘Pastor of Pastors’ who Mobilizes Texas Churches Against LGBT Rights

The Houston conservative's ability to blend politics and religion makes him a particularly potent force.

Editor’s note: With the far right ascendant in Texas politics, once-marginal ideas and people have found a place in the political mainstream. Our recurring Fringe Factor series is an introduction to the often-unknown, but influential activists, thinkers and operatives who … Read More

edith jones
Politics

What Does Discrimination Look Like to Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones?

Despite repeat rulings that Texas passed voter ID with racist intent, judge tells opponents from the bench, “You have nothing.”

Before any of the attorneys even uttered a word, Judge Edith Jones already sounded irritated. She called the case before her and the two other Fifth Circuit judges “twice-chewed food.” She even seemed to caution the lawyers: “Given that, maybe … Read More

police reform, brutality
Criminal Justice

Austin City Council Takes a Step Toward Police Reform, Rejects Union Contract

Activists said the contract would perpetuate a broken system of citizen oversight and shield cops who engage in misconduct.

Late Wednesday night, after almost nine hours of impassioned public testimony, Austin City Council rejected a police union contract that watchdogs say would perpetuate a toothless system of citizen oversight and extend unfair protections for cops accused of misconduct. The … Read More

Civil Rights, News

Dallas Grand Jury Indicts Cop Who Shot Unarmed Man Mistaken for Burglar

Former Mesquite Police Department officer Derick Wiley, who shot Lyndo Jones last month, is the third Dallas-area cop to face criminal charges for an on-duty shooting in 2017.

On Wednesday, a Dallas County grand jury indicted the officer who shot an unarmed black man who police mistook for a car burglar last month, marking the third Dallas-area cop to face criminal charges for an on-duty shooting this year. … Read More

Politics

Texas Continues to Litigate Marriage Equality Amid Inaction from Federal Courts

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t intervene in Houston case challenging benefits for same-sex spouses of city employees.

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land more than two years ago, Texas’ anti-LGBT crusaders continue to wage legal war against same-sex unions in state court and on Monday notched what they … Read More

Criminal Justice

How the Expiration of Austin’s Police Union Contract Could be a Rare Opportunity for Reform

Austin is the latest city where activists have sought police reform by targeting collective bargaining agreements.

For a manual on police union negotiations, Ron DeLord’s early work makes for an entertaining read. The former head of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT) for two decades, DeLord has published acerbic how-to guides for police union … Read More

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