Kevin Garrett, Austin
Kevin Garrett is the former Peer Policy Fellow at Texas Jail Project, where he used his lived experience to expand TJP’s capacity as well as expanding the organization’s collaborative efforts with other stakeholders across the state. As a fellow, he worked for Texas Jail Project on issues having to do with mental health and contributing to their mission to improve conditions and the treatment of people in Texas county jails. During the 86th Texas Legislature, Mr. Garrett was an integral part of TJP, spearheading six bills to help transform the state’s jails into safer and healthier facilities. One of those, HB 1651, was signed into law in September 2019 and helps nearly 5,000 pregnant inmates annually in getting access to better prenatal care.
Mr. Garrett was formerly incarcerated in both county jails and in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system. While in TDCJ, he saw that individuals needing mental health and substance abuse services were all given a generic diagnosis and housed in general population with other offenders. The end of his stay in TDCJ would mark the beginning of his personal quest for recovery, and eventually, the study of regulations and laws of the criminal justice system in Texas.
Mr. Garrett went from being homeless in 2006 to graduating magna cum laude from Texas Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies in 2011. In the spring of 2018, Mr. Garrett earned his JD from the Oklahoma City University School of Law, earning the CALI award in Texas criminal procedure given to the student with the highest grade in a class. In the spring of 2020, he was granted a waiver by the Texas Board of Law Examiners that allowed him the opportunity to sit for the October 2020 Texas bar exam, which he passed. He is currently awaiting certification from the Texas Supreme Court to begin practicing mental health defense.
He also serves as the Vice Chair of the State Bar of Texas’ Disability Issues Committee and Chair of the Mental Health sub-committee.