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Earl Carl Institute

ECI Centers - The Center for Criminal Justice-Haughton

The purpose of the Center for Criminal Justice is to foster a fair and accountable justice system through research, analysis, and collaboration. The center uses an interdisciplinary approach to address problems in the criminal justice system that impact the urban community disproportionately. The goals of the center are to (1) foster collaboration between Texas Southern University School of Law, College of Education and School of Public Affairs to assist graduating students who have prior criminal history with expunging their records, (2) research criminal justice reform issues and recommend more effective policies, and (3) provide students with an opportunity to hone their advocacy skills.

Innocence Project
The Innocence Project at Thurgood Marshall School of Law was created in June of 2007. In March of 2009, the Innocence Project began operating under the Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy, Inc.

The Project employs a full time staff attorney as well as numerous law student investigators who review claims of actual innocence made by incarcerated inmates who have been wrongfully convicted. The Project's dual mission is to first identify inmates who have been wrongfully convicted, provide legal assistance to them and secure their release and secondly to provide its law students with a fulfilling educational experience. In addition to the missions set forth above, the project also worked diligently to educate judges, lawmakers, students and the general public on the causes and prevention of wrongful convictions.

Each term the project accepts ten to twelve especially qualified students to work with a staff attorney experienced in criminal and post-conviction law to review and evaluate post-conviction cases for strong evidence of actual innocence and prepare appropriate cases for court action. Thurgood Marshall law students, under faculty supervision, work directly on the project and are intricately involved in various operations of the project such as creating screening procedures, obtaining and reviewing case histories, applying screening devices, investigating facts, interviewing involved persons, writing case time lines and summaries, performing case analyses, preparing written case evaluations and pleadings.

Inmates or friends and relatives of inmates who have been wrongfully convicted may contact our office to discuss how we might be able to assist the inmate, by calling 713.313.1139. and asking for the Center for Criminal Justice Associate Director. You may also make a formal request for assistance by completing a TPIQ (Texas Prisoner Innocence Questionnaire) and mailing it to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Innocence Project, Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Policy, Inc., Texas Southern University, 3100 Cleburne St., Houston, Texas 77004.

Please keep in mind that we do not handle direct appeals of criminal convictions. We do not challenge problems with the original trial but rather we look for new evidence to prove that the incarcerated person actually did not commit the crime. We only handle claims of actual innocence typically involving DNA evidence testing, mistaken identification, or that a crime never actually occurred.

Juvenile Justice Project

Schools in Texas have historically been safe places for teachers to teach and students to
learn—even in high crime neighborhoods, yet student discipline is increasingly moving
from the schoolhouse to the courthouse. Disrupting class, using profanity, misbehaving
on a school bus, student fights, and truancy once meant a trip to the principal’s office.
Today, such misbehavior results in a Class C misdemeanor ticket and a trip to court for
thousands of Texas students and their families each year.

It is conservatively estimated that more than 275,000 non-traffic tickets are issued to
 juveniles in Texas each year based on information from the Texas Office of Court

Texas Appleseed
Texas’ School to Prison Pipeline:  Ticketing, Arrest & Use of
Force in Schools, How the Myth of the “Blackboard Jungle”
Reshaped School Disciplinary Policy (December 2010).

The Institute began the “Juvenile Justice Project” in November of 2009, through a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, to address the rising number of student ticket cases faced by students accused of school misconduct. The project’s primary purpose is to provide direct legal representation to students in Class C Misdemeanor cases pending in Justice and Municipal Courts in Texas.  The project’s secondary purpose is to provide information to the legislators, schools, and the larger community about the long term effects on students that stem from criminalizing ordinary school misconduct.  

The project seeks to highlight and reduce the burgeoning and disparate use of student tickets amongst minority communities.   African American students, and to a lesser extent Hispanic students, are significantly overrepresented in discretionary suspensions and disciplinary alternative school referrals for nonviolent offenses.  The high correlation between school misconduct and later incarceration which led to the phrase, “the school to prison pipeline” is now widely acknowledged and researched.  As demonstrated in the Texas A&M Public Policy Research Institute’s recent finding that, “the single greatest predictor of future incarceration in the juvenile justice system is a history of disciplinary referrals at school.”  The simple numbers show that more than 80 percent of Texas prison inmates are high school dropouts, while one in three juveniles sent to the Texas Youth Commission are also high school dropouts.  

By directly confronting the issuance of these student tickets the Juvenile Justice Project intends to ameliorate the impact on students, particularly minority students, and thus decrease the student drop-out rate and the correlating increased rate of future incarceration.

To accomplish the project goals, we provide the following services:
•    Legal Advice & Consultation
•    Review of Student Records
•    Meeting with Parents
•    Negotiating with School Districts & Prosecutors
•    In-Court Representation
•    Legal Services related to Administrative Hearings & Meetings to Challenge School Disciplinary Actions

Anyone needing those services is eligible to receive FREE legal representation from our Project.  Our geographic service area is generally Harris County and its contiguous counties (Brazoria, Galveston, Chambers, Liberty, Montgomery, Fort Bend, & Waller).  We do not have any income guidelines associated with our services.  Intake is conducted Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. by calling 713.313.1139.

The Project is also available to make group presentations upon request.

Indigent Defense Program
Equality, justice and, fairness for all, are fundamental principles in our society.   Nowhere are they more important than in our criminal justice system, nowhere do they seem harder to obtain.  The Center for Criminal Justice’s Indigent Defense Program was created May 2010 to seek out ways to re-align the practice of criminal law and its resultant disparate racial and economic impact with our fundamental principles.  The Center for Criminal Justice’s Indigent Defense Program has three main focus areas.  The first, “Research and Study”, seeks to explore the costs borne by minorities and the poor that stem from our failure to meet our fundamental principles.  The second, “Policy and Development”, seeks to find long term solutions to bridge the gap between the guiding principles of our criminal law and its everyday practice.  The Third, “Best Practices and Direct Representation,” will provide training and other resources for both defense and prosecution criminal practitioners, and Direct Representation in high impact litigation.

  Civil Advocacy
  Criminal Justice
  Government Law











































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3100 Cleburne Street, Houston, TX 77004
Phone: 713-313-4455 Fax: 713-313-1049