Texas Court Records
The Texas State Prison System
The Texas State Prison System constitutes all correctional facilities responsible for punishment, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation of individuals arrested or convicted of a crime within the state. The individuals incarcerated in these facilities have breached one or more of the laws relating to crime and punishment per the Texas penal codes, and they are called inmates.
The US state of Texas has the largest prison system housing the highest number of prisoners in the Country with 146,843 prisoners(2016) and more than a hundred correctional facilities, including private, city, and county facilities. The correctional facilities include; jails, prisons, rehabilitation centers, medical facilities for the criminally insane, etc.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice oversees the operations of these facilities through its Correctional Institution Division (CID).
What is the Difference Between Jail and Prison in Texas?
Outline the disparities between jails and prisons based on the state's penal system. Explain their various roles in the incarceration process of a convicted criminal. The correctional facilities in Texas primarily include Jails and Prison; however, they can be broken down into.
- County Jails,
- State Jails and
The most significant difference between these facilities is the "type of offenders" incarcerated within them.
County Jails houses most misdemeanor offenders with mi or wrongdoings, while the State jail and Prisons house felony offenders.
Type of offense
- Texas penal code classifies felonies into;
- Capital or First-degree felonies
- Second-degree felonies
- Third-degree felonies
- State Jail felonies or non-violent fourth-degree felonies.
Therefore, state jails house offenders with the state jail felony convictions and the prisons house offenders with convictions for federal crimes and higher degree felonies
- Offenders incarcerated in county jails are either awaiting trial, just been arrested, charged without the ability to post bond or bail, and have short sentences of a year or less.
- Offenders in state jails are convicted for state felonies punishable by a sentence of 180 days - 2 years
- Offenders in state prisons have longer sentences of about 2 - 99 years for usually more violent crimes.
How Many Prisons are in Texas?
The Texas Prison system constitutes over a hundred correctional facilities, including state jails and state prisons. This also includes private prisons built and managed by private individuals.
The incarceration/holding facilities in Texas include:
- 50 State Prisons
- 14 State Jails
- 7 Private Prisons
- 5 Private Jails
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains a unit directory with details of facility type, the location, and operators of these facilities.
How do I search for an Inmate in Texas State Prison?
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) maintains the largest inmate database in the state because the department manages the correctional facilities in Texas.
The department has provided a web portal with an online search tool to locate an inmate in Texas using the following information:
- Inmate's first and last names
- TDCJ Number
- State Identification Number (SID)
- Inmate's Gender
- Inmate's Race
The TDCJ or SID numbers are important because they are used to track an offender's movement through the justice system.
Besides, the department also accepts email and telephone requests for prisoner information.
If the inquirer does not know the required identity numbers, the inmate's birthdate information, county of conviction, and inmate's approximate age will suffice.
Finally, correctional facilities in Texas accept calls inquiring about an inmate's location. The only issue with this method might be determining the facility where the inmate is incarcerated. However, the inmate's criminal history records will have data on the facility where he/she is being held.
Are Incarceration Records Public in Texas?
Under Texas law, when an individual is convicted of a crime, it is a public event. Hence, the individual's criminal history records, including details of the alleged crime, conviction, sentencing, and incarceration, are available to the public unless otherwise sealed and exempted by law. For example, if records of interest are vital to an ongoing investigation, it may be exempted from disclosure.
Besides, the Texas Public Information Statute mandates that law enforcement agencies, including police departments, courts, jails, and prisons, make these records easily available to the public.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Look Up Jail Records in Texas?
Inquirers may obtain jail records and criminal information by:
- The Texas Department of Public Safety is the central repository for criminal records in the state. Inquirers can look up an individual's criminal history records of arrests, convictions, and incarcerations on the department's website, etc.
- Jails and prisons in Texas maintain incarceration/jail records of every inmate that has been convicted of a crime and incarcerated within them. Interested individuals can contact the holding facility of interest for an individual's jail records, provided that's where he/she was incarcerated. Inquirers may find details of the state correctional facilities through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) unit directory.
- The Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains jail records in the state. The department has an online search tool inquirers can use to find an individual's jail records.
- Inquirers may also access jail records through Texas Courts. Records created during criminal court proceedings will have details of an individual's criminal history, and interested can visit the courthouses to request for court records that fall under the Federal Open Records Law. Courts across the state can be located via the Texas Judicial Branch Directory.
- If the individual is incarcerated in a county jail, the local county sheriff would be able to provide his/her criminal and jail records. Some counties even maintain these records online to ease public access to them.
Can Jail Records be Expunged in Texas?
Yes, jail records can be expunged in Texas; in fact, an individual could either expunge or seal a criminal record. Expunction permanently removes the individual's arrests and conviction data as if it never occurred while sealing the record only removes an individual's arrests and convictions from the public view.
An individual is eligible for record expunction if:
- The charges were dismissed at trial
- The court acquitted the individual
- If the individual was arrested but never charged
- If the individual was convicted but later pardoned or found innocent
The individual may follow the procedures provided by Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to expunge criminal records.
NB: An individual isn't eligible for an expunction may be eligible for non-disclosure or sealing of criminal records.