Travis County Plans New Women's Jail

January 25, 2018
Austin Chronicle

"One evening last September, an employee at the local organization Grassroots Lead­er­ship was scanning through Travis Coun­ty's proposed budget when she stumbled upon plans for a new $91 million women's jail on the county's Del Valle correctional campus. She spread the word to her co-workers, who were blindsided by the news. 'It immediately caught our eye and caused a lot of concern,' said Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director for Grassroots.

Kirby notified several partner organizations of Grassroots' Decarcerate ATX campaign, which aims to reduce incarceration and its inordinate impact on communities of color. These included Lone Star Justice Alliance, Texas Advocates for Justice, Texas Appleseed, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and Texas Fair Defense Project – 'all the folks in the community that should be a part of the conversation,' Kirby said. 'And it was a total surprise to all of us.'

Further alarming the coalition, the new women's facility is just part of the first phase of an extensive jail renovation and expansion expected to take 24 years and cost more than half a billion dollars. After testifying against the jail at the county commissioners' budget hearing in September, the coalition sent a letter to county staff and elected officials on Jan. 19, asking them to halt any further action on the jail. 'Our organizations strongly believe that before we invest millions in new infrastructure that potentially adds bed capacity to the Travis County jail system, serious analysis of the drivers of the jail population and formal consultation with stakeholders are urgently needed."'