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:

civil commitment, civil rights, texas
Criminal Justice

A Prison By Any Other Name

How Texas created a new for-profit lock-up, which it really doesn't want you to call a "prison."

How Texas created a new for-profit lockup, which it really doesn’t want you to call a “prison.” – by Michael Barajas @michaelsbarajas February 12, 2018 In early September 2015, guards fanned out across Texas with orders to round up about … Read More

Criminal Justice

Texas Juvenile Justice System Loses an Advocate, Gains Another Career Cop

Advocates fear Abbott’s replacement of juvenile justice watchdog hints at new “law enforcement approach” to transparency at the troubled agency.

Lawmakers and advocates have loudly demanded changes at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) since the beleaguered agency’s latest high-profile embarrassment, a sex scandal involving guards and youth offenders at the Gainesville State School, broke into the open late last … Read More

Criminal Justice

In Harris County, the ‘Slow Erosion’ of a System That Keeps People in Jail Because They’re Poor

The case to end cash bail puts Harris County judges and magistrates under a microscope.

The young woman muttered “yeah” when asked if she wanted a court-appointed lawyer. That wasn’t good enough for Harris County magistrate Eric Hagstette, who explained to her the difference between “yes” and “yeah” when she appeared, via video link, before … Read More

Civil Rights, News

Lawsuit Questions How Port Arthur Police, Hospital Staff Respond to Mentally Ill Patients

Family claims police and hospital guards cornered a schizophrenic man then smothered him to death when he refused to remove his underwear.

The Delacruz family realized Manuel was dangerously sick somewhere on the highway as they passed San Antonio. It was the summer of 2016 and they were coming back from a weeklong vacation in northern Mexico, where Manuel, 26, hadn’t slept … Read More

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, Political Intelligence, The Issue

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


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

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