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].


Criminal Justice

AG Opinion: Texas Cops Under Investigation Can Watch ‘Any’ Body Cam Footage Before Answering Questions

Some fear the policy will let officers get their story straight about questionable police encounters before putting anything on record.

If a Texas cop outfitted with a body camera shoots someone, they get to review not only their own footage but that of every other body cam-wearing officer at the scene before answering questions about it. Thanks to a Monday … Read More

Criminal Justice

Texas Prison System Sheds Men, Swallows Even More Women

Report says rise in incarcerated women hints at disparities in the male-dominated criminal justice system.

More than 10,000 of the 12,500 women in Texas prisons have children waiting for them back home. Not only are incarcerated women much more likely to be parents than men, most of them aren’t in prison for a violent offense, … Read More

bexar county, da race, marijuana
Civil Rights, Elections 2018: Races to Watch, News

San Antonio, Dallas Primaries Could Usher in Prosecutors Who Promise a More Equal Criminal Justice System

Reformers have targeted Texas primary races where candidates promise bail reform and jail diversion.

South Texas can create a curious kind of conservative-leaning Democrat, but bizarre behavior by Nicholas “Nico” LaHood during his first term as Bexar County District Attorney puts him in a league of his own. LaHood called Islam “horrifically violent” on … Read More

Civil Rights, News

Oscar-Nominated Documentary Highlights the Routine Brutality of a Texas Traffic Stop

Breaion King’s arrest was quotidian to police, life-altering for her and reveals the chasm between police and the people they’re supposed to protect and serve.

“I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?” That’s what an irritated Sandra Bland asked the Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who pulled her over for failing to use her turn signal on July … Read More

lupe valdez, elections 2018
Texas Legislature

Compassionate Cop? A Hard Look at Lupe Valdez’s Record as Dallas Sheriff

At best, Lupe Valdez embraced reforms that years of scandal had forced upon the Dallas County jail. At worst, she downplayed problems and withheld information on jail deaths in the post-Sandra Bland era.

Compassionate Cop? Taking a Hard Look at Lupe Valdez’s Record as Dallas Sheriff At best, Lupe Valdez embraced reforms that years of scandal had forced upon the Dallas County jail. At worst, she downplayed problems and withheld information on jail … Read More

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

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