Meza, Thresa "Terry"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 03/03/2021
Rep. Meza Files Bill to Study Impacts of Solitary Confinement, Restrict Punishment To Maximum of 10 Days
AUSTIN -- State Rep. Terry Meza (Irving) on Wednesday filed two bills addressing the use of solitary confinement in Texas prisons, including restricting its use to a maximum of 10 consecutive days.
"People spend years in solitary confinement in Texas prisons. By the time they are released, their mental and physical health has suffered greatly, and that can impact the remainder of their lives," said Meza. "We sentence people to prison to be punished for crimes and rehabilitated to be released back into society. We should not be destroying people's mental health with lengthy periods of time in solitary confinement," Meza said.
Solitary confinement, which is called "administrative segregation," in corrections lexicon, has been used in Texas prisons for decades. The Texas Observer has covered its use extensively. The American Psychological Association noted as far back as 2012 that prisoners who have spent time in solitary are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses when they are released. The APA also points to a 2007 University of Washington study indicating prisoners who have spent excessive time in solitary confinement are more likely to reoffend.
"At this very moment, I have constituents from my district sentenced to prison for non-violent crimes who are in solitary confinement for as much as a year. That is unacceptable," Meza said.
In addition, Meza also filed a bill to direct the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, with assistance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of State Health Services, to study the use of administrative segregation and its impact on the physical and mental health of prisoners.
"If we are unable to pass restrictions on the use of administrative segregation this session, we must pass the study bill so we have empirical evidence from Texas government agencies on the impact of this practice, so the Legislature is better equipped to act next session," Meza said.
Rep. Meza's two bills are House Bills 2751 and 2752.
Meza, an Irving resident who represents Irving and Grand Prairie, is an attorney who has engaged in criminal and civil practice. In addition, Meza, a former public school teacher, is a longtime community advocate and activist for civil rights. She has worked on civil rights issues and community engagement with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).