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PJIL Publications

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Transparency & Oversight (Featured Publications)

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But Who Oversees the Overseers? The Status of Prison and Jail Oversight in the United States

Updating and expanding upon Michele’s 50-state inventory of prison oversight models published in 2010, this article provides background information about the nature, value, and history of correctional oversight; documents the shifting landscape and increasing momentum around the oversight issue over the last decade; and provides a comprehensive assessment of the state of prison and jail oversight in the US today. 

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Independent Oversight Is Essential for a Safe and Healthy Prison System

Published as part of the Brennan Center for Justice’s series on punitive excess, Michele identifies independent correctional oversight as a critical but often overlooked tool that provides a window into one of our most opaque public institutions, one that denies elected officials the option of remaining purposefully ignorant about correctional conditions. 

Louisiana Jail Standards Report

Recommendations For Revised Jail Standards, Oversight, and Programming for Jails in the State of Louisiana

This report was published in response to House Concurrent Resolution No. 89 (HCR89), which was passed by the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2021. HCR89 directed PJIL to work with the Louisiana Sheriffs Association and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to expand upon Louisiana's Basic Jail Guidelines (BJG). In this report, Michele and Alycia recommend modifications to the BJG, changes to existing methods of enforcement, and pathways for expanding programming in local jails.

Image of the Locked Out Report, featuring a photo hands holding prison bars.

Hidden Figures: Rating the COVID Data Transparency of Prisons, Jails, and Juvenile Agencies

Using a grading rubric we developed from key metrics every state should be reporting with respect to COVID in correctional facilities, “Hidden Figures” reveals a troubling lack of transparency about data regarding the spread, toll and management of COVID-19 in state prisons, local jails and state-run juvenile facilities. The report also offers a set of recommendations on ways corrections agencies and state and local leaders could improve data transparency.

Health & Safety (Featured Publications)

Canary in the Coal Mine title over a large TDCJ badge superimposed over a set of prison bars, with a disposable face mask hanging off one of the bars.

Canary in the Coal Mine: A Profile of Staff COVID Deaths in the Texas Prison System

This report reveals the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic on prison workers in Texas. We found that Texas has some of the worst COVID outcomes among prison staff in the country, even when controlling for size. What's more, in Jan 2021, the Texas prison agency stopped reporting deaths from COVID among people who are incarcerated, making it difficult to assess the true toll of the virus behind bars. The report suggests that deaths and infections among staff may be a proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” warning that the true impact of COVID in Texas prisons has yet to be fully revealed.

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COVID and Corrections: A Profile of COVID Deaths in Custody in Texas

The report provides groundbreaking data on the impact of COVID-19 in state-operated prisons and county-operated jails in Texas. We found that, as of October 2020, Texas had more COVID infections and deaths among incarcerated people and staff than any other state in the country. The report drew national attention and was featured in over 700 news stories.

Cover of the Dead Man Waiting report.

Dead Man Waiting: A brief profile of deaths in Texas prisons among people approved for parole release

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, “Dead Man Waiting,” shows that while deaths among parole-approved people increased during the COVID period, this population was already dying in large numbers from other chronic health issues while awaiting release. The report was the subject of a full-length NBC News NOW story, featuring families of people who died after parole approval, as well as several other prominent news outlets.

Cover page of report that reads “Recommended Strategies for Sheriffs and Jails to Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis”

Recommended Strategies for Sheriffs and Jails to Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis

At the onset of the pandemic, Michele drafted this rapid response paper detailing strategies that sheriffs could implement in order to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19 in jails.

Women in Custody (Featured Publications)

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The Pandemic Gender Gap Behind Bars: Meeting the Needs of Women in Custody During COVID-19 and Planning for the Future

This report examines the distinct harms that women in custody experience during incarceration and highlights the ways in which correctional agencies’ COVID-19 restrictions are exacerbating those harms. The report recommends a set of gender-responsive approaches to COVID precautions in corrections facilities that would simultaneously strengthen public health and improve outcomes for women, their families, and communities. 


Designing and Planning a New Women’s Jail Facility for Travis County: A Roadmap for Reform

As Chair and member, respectively, on the Travis County Sheriff’s Women’s Jail Advisory Committee in 2018, Michele and Alycia detail a vision for a reimagined, gender-responsive facility for women in custody at the Travis County Correctional Complex.

Youth Justice (Featured Publications)

Cover of the Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System in Texas report.

Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System in Texas

This report examines all available Texas data with respect to certified juveniles and compares them to the population of juveniles who receive determinate sentences and are placed in TYC. It also compares the significant differences in programming and services for the two populations of juvenile offenders.

Screenshot Desktop Guideto Quality Practice for Working with Youth in Confinemen

Desktop Guide to Quality Practice for Working with Youth in Confinement, Chapter 14

Michele and Alycia researched and drafted a chapter of NIC’s Desktop Guide to Quality Practice for Working with Youth in Confinement on ways to manage the behavior of youth in confinement.

Image of From Time Out to Hard Time cover featuring a child sitting on a prison bed in black and white.

From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System

This report offers set of recommendations directed to policy-makers to reconsider policies that allow for the trial and harsh sentencing of pre-adolescent children in the adult criminal justice system. It was the focus of a lead editorial in the New York Times, "12 and Under in Prison."