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

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
Politics

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
Politics

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.
Politics

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

dallas, secret bail bond, civil rights
Criminal Justice

Bail Lawsuit Accuses Dallas County of Violating Poor People’s Rights in Secret Hearings

“Dallas must open these hearings so that a bright light can be shed on the devastating, mass violations of civil and human rights that are happening in the jail every day.”

Bail Lawsuit Accuses Dallas County of Violating Poor People’s Rights in Secret Hearings “Dallas must open these hearings so that a bright light can be shed on the devastating, mass violations of civil and human rights that are happening in … Read More

border patrol, shooting, hernandez
Border

Courts: Police Can Shoot and Kill People As Long They Are Across the Border

Civil rights groups fear the courts are surrendering the judicial oversight necessary to rein in one of the nation’s largest police forces.

On June 7, 2010, while on patrol near the bridge connecting Juarez to El Paso, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. fired his gun into Mexico and struck Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca below his left eye, killing the unarmed … Read More

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

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