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Houston Forces Parolees out of City Under New Rule

A new ordinance passed by the Houston, Texas, city council requiring housing for parolees to be at least 1,000 feet from any park, school, day care, or other re-entry housing has effectively pushed parolees outside the city.

When asked for a public safety rationale by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the city gave none, offered no evidence to support the new rule, and largely ignored comments and questions before passing the new rule. “It was orchestrated from the start that it was going to pass regardless,” Jay Jenkins, an attorney with the coalition, said.

Each year, around 14,000 former prisoners return to Harris County, including Houston. “For re-entry housing to be successful, it has to be centrally located, has to be located near public transportation, has to be located near health care with access to food,” Jenkins said. The 1,000-foot rule is setting up parolees to fail, he said.

“There are few outcomes more detrimental to public safety than further limiting the housing options for people who already face barriers to housing and employment,” Criminal District Court Judge Kristin M. Guiney wrote to the city council, opposing the rule.

Natalia Cornelio, criminal justice reform director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the 1,000-foot rule “just seems consistent with the culture of criminalizing something that’s difficult to deal with, instead of providing a solution and investing in it.”

A map showing the location of parks and schools within Houston revealed there is virtually no place in the city where a building is not within 1,000 feet of those places. 


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