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

Cruz’s Reaction to ‘New Jim Crow’ Comments Ignores the Racist Roots of Mass Incarceration

O’Rourke talks racial disparities in the justice system; Cruz goes nuclear and embraces the politics of policing, revealing an aversion to confronting our dark past.

Several minutes into his first televised showdown with Beto O’Rourke on Friday, Senator Ted Cruz dove into a controversy that had dominated right-wing media, yet escaped the attention of the left. A moderator asked Cruz about his mealy-mouthed stance on … Read More

dallas, secret bail bond, civil rights
Criminal Justice

Civil Rights Groups are Changing Bail Practices in Texas, One City at a Time

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled against Dallas County’s strict reliance on cash bail, saying it discriminates against poor people and violates their equal protection rights.

If police arrest and charge you with a misdemeanor in Dallas County, and you can’t afford bail, you’ll likely be stuck in jail somewhere between four to 10 days, until your first court hearing. If you’re charged with a felony … Read More

dallas shooting
Criminal Justice

How the Police Shooting of Botham Jean Disrupted Dallas’ Reputation for Reform

The brain-twisting shooting of a man inside his own apartment is yet another example of both police escalation and the flexibility often afforded cops who commit egregious acts.

UPDATE: Dallas Police Department Chief U. Renée Hall fired officer Amber Guyger on September 24, about two weeks after she was charged with manslaughter for the killing of Botham Jean. Family and friends of Jordan Edwards cried tears of both joy … Read More


Freeport’s East End Began in Segregation and Will End with Displacement

A federal lawsuit accuses Port Freeport of threatening residents of a minority community with eminent domain and coercing them into selling their property.

In 1930, Freeport’s white leaders established a “negro district” perched on the edge of what would eventually become one of the nation’s largest deepwater ports, near where the Brazos River meets the Gulf. Two years later, after white residents complained … Read More

dallas, secret bail bond, civil rights
Criminal Justice

Videos of Dallas Bail Hearings Show Assembly-Line Justice in Action

Footage obtained by the Observer shows cursory bail hearings that routinely last fewer than 15 seconds.

Abolishing cash bail is a key part of the movement to end mass incarceration because money still largely determines who remains in county jail, which is itself the front door to a giant carceral state (at last count, there were … Read More

Criminal Justice

The Murder Conviction of Dallas-area Cop Roy Oliver is Nothing Short of Extraordinary

The case illustrates the high bar that prosecutors must clear for a conviction, particularly in Texas, where prosecutions for on-duty killings are virtually unheard of.

Police are justified in maiming, shooting or killing you if another “reasonable” officer would’ve done the same thing. That’s the malleable, snake-eating-its-tail legal standard that the U.S. Supreme Court established for judging police violence three decades ago. Critics still blame … Read More

bun b
Health Care

Professor Trill

Rapper Bun B on Port Arthur, resilience and the meaning of trill.

The Bayou City loves Bernard “Bun B” Freeman so much that he’s been given the title “Houston’s unofficial mayor.” But the Grammy-nominated renaissance man of Texas rap actually hails from Port Arthur, a struggling refinery town 90 miles east. The … Read More


A Texas-Style Gun(less) Debate After a Year of Mass Shootings

In his zealous rejection of “red flag” laws, Dan Patrick reminds us of the long odds anything resembling gun reform faces in the Texas Legislature.

Texas remains hostile territory for even modest forms of gun reform, after a year punctuated by mass shootings. In November, Governor Greg Abbott and other top GOP leaders bumbled through the state’s deadliest mass shooting in modern history by preaching … Read More