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:


Professor Trill

by | Tue, May 22, 2018 at 10:32 am CST
Criminal Justice

Something Has Changed in the Gun Debate in Texas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has discovered a more palatable response to mass shootings, but how far beyond “thoughts and prayers” is he willing to go to curb gun violence?

Thoughts and prayers aren’t good enough following Texas’ latest mass shooting, not even for some of the state’s gun-loving officials. “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” Governor Greg Abbott declared at a … Read More

bail, wealth based detention, civil rights
Criminal Justice

Ahead of Mother’s Day, Activists Bail Out Young Black Moms Across Texas

Organizers who raised money to bail out black mothers across the state are part of a movement seeking to end what civil rights groups call “wealth-based detention.”

Simone Oliver took her first-ever trip to the Bexar County jail on April 25, when she said an argument with her partner spiraled into a misdemeanor domestic assault charge. Because she couldn’t afford $3,000 bail, Oliver spent 14 nights in … Read More


Lawsuit: Texas Art Teacher Suspended Because She Told Students About Her Wife

Stacy Bailey’s year-long suspension has triggered calls to update Mansfield ISD’s nondiscrimination policy, which in turn has prompted backlash from conservatives.

If you’re gay and an elementary school teacher in the North Texas suburb of Mansfield, simply telling students about your partner or spouse could cost you your job. Art instructor Stacy Bailey, a decade-long employee of Mansfield ISD and two-time … Read More

Criminal Justice

Lawyers Seek to Reform ‘Ethical Minefield’ of Public Defender’s Office Controlled by Texas Prison System

Former public defenders say prison officials who had a hand in prosecuting their clients influenced and sometimes outright interfered with their defense work.

Last week, David O’Neil stood before the Texas Board of Criminal Justice with an awkward request: He asked nine governor-appointed board members to relinquish their control over the Texas prison system’s little-known public defender’s office. O’Neil ran the trial section … Read More

Criminal Justice

Women in Texas Prisons Denied Same Academic, Job Training Opportunities as Incarcerated Men

"Black holes of inattention" lead to stark gender disparities in the Texas prison system, according to a new report.

A gulf exists between educational opportunities and job certification programs offered to men and women in Texas prisons, according to a new report by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Incarcerated men, who can choose from a list of 21 professions, … Read More

michael li, gerrymandering

Redistricting Guru Michael Li on Texas’ Gerrymandered Maps

Li, who grew up in Texas, has followed Texas’ seven-year legal fight to dilute minority voting power from the beginning.

The Texas Legislature is racist. Specifically, Texas lawmakers knowingly and intentionally pass voting laws that disproportionately harm minorities. Nine federal court rulings have more or less arrived at that conclusion since 2011. Last year, a federal three-judge panel found that … Read More

Blake Farenthold

Blake Farenthold and the Consequences of Extreme Gerrymandering

How the Corpus Christi Republican, who abruptly resigned from Congress this week, benefited from a discriminatory redistricting plan that’s now before the Supreme Court.

Blake Farenthold’s frat bro image started with a photo from an adult pajama party that surfaced a month before his unlikely rise to Congress in 2010. Thanks to Farenthold, the image of a portly, rosy-cheeked man stuffed into a duck-pattern … Read More

Speedy Roo, the mascot of the payday loan lender Speedy Cash, in an Austin advertisement.

Payday Lenders Are Working Hard to Keep Texas the ‘Wild West’ in Trump Era

Payday lenders in Texas have sued to block federal rules that advocates say are desperately needed to protect borrowers in a state that has failed to regulate the industry.

Texas is often called the “Wild West” of predatory lending, an anything-goes wonderland where payday and auto title loan businesses can charge low-income people vertigo-inducing fees whenever they desperately need a cash advance to, say, keep the lights on or … Read More

bail, galveston, aclu
Criminal Justice

Galveston Lawsuit Is Writing on the Wall for Other Counties that Haven’t Ended ‘Wealth-Based Detention’

The lawsuit is now one of several across Texas seeking to end the practice of keeping people in jail just because they’re poor.

Last summer, the ACLU of Texas warned that Galveston County operates an unconstitutional bail system. In a letter to county officials, ACLU staff attorney Trisha Trigilio told county officials that holding defendants for days without counsel or a meaningful bail … Read More