Washington, D.C. – Members of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group traveled to Houston, Texas on April 19-20, 2017 to meet with local community leaders and law enforcement to discuss police accountability, aggression towards law enforcement, and public safety concerns related to these issues. Members who traveled to Houston are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Representative Cedric Richmond (D-La.).
Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers made the following statement on the trip to Houston: “Members of the Policing Strategies Working Group had a very informative and productive trip to Houston. We heard from local law enforcement and community leaders about steps they have taken to meet the challenges that are driving a wedge between law enforcement and local communities, challenges that remain, and their ideas for meeting those remaining challenges. We were encouraged by the work that is already being done in Houston to address these issues and we look forward to continuing this important dialogue.”
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who helped coordinate the visit, said the following: “I was proud to have the Policing Strategies Working Group visit Houston to learn more about how our city is working to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community.
"Nationwide we are witnessing a sea shift in public support for criminal justice reform with support spanning the ideological spectrum and crossing party lines. It is our responsibility to carry this momentum over the finish line of reform and deliver results for the American people.”
Below are five pictures from the trip.
On Wednesday, April 19, the Members of Congress toured the Federal Detention Center a U.S. federal prison which currently houses nearly 1,000 inmates. The majority of inmates being held at FDC Houston are awaiting or in the middle of court proceedings. Others are serving short sentences. During the tour, Warden Michael Pearce explained the transfer procedures for moving inmates in and out of the prison. Members also visited the health unit at FDC Houston and spoke with the medical professionals who care for the inmates.
Congressional delegation with Warden Pearce, Federal Detention Center Houston
On Thursday, April 20, the Members held a private roundtable with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, Judge Maria Jackson, various members of local law enforcement, and community leaders. Members discussed the challenges law enforcement faces and mistrust among the law enforcement and African-American community.
Mayor Sylvester addresses the roundtable.
Following the roundtable, the members held a press conference. Watch the press conference on Facebook.
Rep. Jackson Lee gives the opening remarks to the press.
Following the press conference, the Members heard from representatives of Prison Entrepreneurship Enterprises, which is a privately funded organization dedicated to helping recently released prisoners succeed on their own.
Afterwards, the Members met with Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and toured the Harris County Jail. The Members learned about a special program aimed at keeping female inmates who were involved in sex work from returning to that upon their release.
Congressional Delegation with Harris County Sheriff Gonzalez
Finally, the Members met with workers at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center.
Congressional Delegation with the staff at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center
Background on the Working Group: In July 2016, Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers announced the establishment of a working group to examine police accountability, aggression towards law enforcement, and public safety concerns related to these issues. The bipartisan working group is in the process of holding a series of roundtables to candidly discuss the issues fueling excessive force used by law enforcement and attacks against police officers. Read Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers’ op-ed on the working group in The Hill here.