Apr 1, 2024 - News

🧺 Cornyn takes lessons from Bonton, other Dallas organizations

A group of people sitting in a roundtable setup of tables

Antong Lucky (far left) shares his experiences as a former inmate who now runs Urban Specialists in Dallas. Photo: Courtesy of Sen. John Cornyn's office

Cornyn is drafting legislation that pulls from lessons learned from Dallas organizations like Bonton that help people rebuild their lives after serving time.

Why it matters: Texas' prison population is smaller than only the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

  • The state's prison population grew 4.4% between 2021 and 2022, adding the most prisoners of any state during that time.
  • Around 78,000 inmates are released from state prisons every year, per Cornyn's office.

Between the lines: Prison time often carries a stigma that makes it hard for people to find a well-paying job and a home.

  • "You can't build enough prisons to keep people behind bars. What you've got to figure out is how to keep people out of prison," Cornyn said at a roundtable discussion last week.

How it works: Cornyn's Workforce Reentry Act would give money to organizations with a "successful track record" of offering career development opportunities to people leaving the criminal justice system.

  • The bill would also encourage organizations working with former inmates to share best practices.
  • "This is about taking people who want to turn their lives around and giving them the skills they need to be successful," Cornyn said.

What they're doing: Several North Texas organizations provide support with job training, finding employment and securing housing in hopes of curbing recidivism.

  • Antong Lucky has been relying on his experience in state prison to run Dallas-based Urban Specialists, which aims to "disrupt toxic trends" through violence prevention and gang intervention.
  • The organization has adopted a Texas prison unit to coach inmates before their release and supports the children of incarcerated individuals.

Reality check: The roundtable participants acknowledged that keeping people out of prison in the first place would be the ideal approach.

What's next: Cornyn's office says he plans to file the reentry legislation in the coming months.


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