Advancing Criminal Justice Reform



The 87th Texas Legislature session spanned January to May 2021. The session focused heavily on high-profile reform efforts around bail, police accountability, and drug policy. The Center for Justice Research identified 60 related bills, testified on 4 priority bills, and closely monitored legislative progress throughout the session.


Bail reform stalled during the session due to some controversial provisions, but remains a priority issue for future legislative sessions in Texas. Police reform saw important progress with the passage of acts improving transparency, banning chokeholds, and establishing a duty for officers to intervene in cases of excessive force. Overall, 9 of the 65 criminal justice reform bills passed, led primarily by Republican-authored legislation.

Policy Response

  • Special sessions provide opportunity for progress on stalled reform efforts.
  • New advocacy strategies are needed to cement police accountability and judicial reforms.
  • The Center for Justice Research remains committed to advancing evidence-based reforms for a more just system.

Key Takeaways

  • Bipartisan support for police reform is growing, but ending qualified immunity remains a key sticking point.
  • Strategic partnerships and public opinion shifts have created momentum for systemic change.
  • The Center for Justice Research’s advocacy and testimony assisted lawmakers in developing more equitable policies.