The Mithoff Pro Bono Program assists women who are incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in their efforts to obtain parole. In the first two years of the project, the pro bono team, led by Justice Center senior research attorney Helen Gaebler, won all of its cases, sparing nine women collectively more than 55 years of incarceration. With this track record of success and the enthusiasm of the student volunteers working on behalf of these women, the pro bono project continues to grow, assisting 16 women in 2020 and involving more than 32 students. The project is further expanding its reach by providing training and technical assistance on parole packet preparation to other Texas law schools, impacted families, and criminal justice reform advocates around the state.
Expanding its role in this area, the Justice Center also worked with the Texas Law Civil Rights Clinic to submit comments to the Texas House Committee on Appropriations regarding the impact of Texas’ aging inmate population on rising health care costs at TDCJ. The comments discuss the link between an older inmate population and increased health care costs and point to research indicating that persons age 50+ are far less likely to return to prison for new crimes and pose overall lower criminogenic risks than younger individuals. To offset TDCJ’s rising health care costs, the comments recommend expanding early release options for Texas’ geriatric prison population.