We Are Expanding Our Mission – And Our Impact

Dear Friends:

I have exciting news to share with you. After over a quarter century of driving down new executions and death sentences in the Lone Star State, Texas Defender Service is expanding its mission: we will now fight for the end of mass incarceration and excessive punishment in Texas through direct representation, policy reform, and public education. We will stand up for the dignity and humanity of people harmed by mass incarceration, and advocate for a reimagined criminal-legal system that is just, humane, and free from racism and cruelty.

Texas is Ground Zero for mass incarceration on the planet. Today, the Lone Star State holds a quarter of a million people in our prisons and jails, where conditions of confinement remain among the harshest in the United States. One of the main drivers of mass incarceration in Texas is our practice of excessive punishment: imposing extremely long prison sentences that outlast any public-safety purpose.

Behind these extreme sentences are real human stories: the stories of people who are suffering from excessive sentences, and the stories of the families and communities they have been forced to leave behind. But we are at an exciting moment for genuine and lasting change. As a society, we are finally recognizing that extreme punishment costs all of us: It harms public safety, perpetuates racism, hurts children and families, and diverts resources away from strategies that would genuinely reduce violence in our society.

We can’t wait to step into this new role and lead the fight to end excessive punishment in the Lone Star State. Over the coming months, I will share more with you about how excessive punishment is harming Texans, and what we can do about it—together. In the meantime, thank you—for all the ways you lend your hearts and voices to our fight for justice in Texas.

With gratitude,

Burke Butler, Executive Director
Texas Defender Service