Grassroots Leadership In The News

Mar 17, 2018
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KVUE

WilCo group demands action from county commissioners on sex assault investigation

A group called Grassroots Leadership demanded the release of an undocumented immigrant woman detained at T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor.

Grassroots Leadership said Laura Monterrosa has been at the detention center since May 2017.

Last November, Monterrosa reported she was sexually assaulted by a guard. ICE officials told KVUE they found her claim to be unsubstantiated.

Grassroots Leadership members said the county is liable for the abuses that are happening to Monterrosa and should intercede with ICE for her release. 

"The county is a party to the contract, along with ICE and CoreCivic for the T. Don Hutto Detention Center," Grassroots Leadership member Bethany Carson said. "They are liable for any abuses that happens as a party to the contract." Read more about WilCo group demands action from county commissioners on sex assault investigation

Mar 16, 2018
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We are Mitu

This Woman Was Sexually Assaulted In An Immigration Detention Center And Now Risks Deportation

"The #MeToo movement, a hashtag used on social media to demonstrate a widespread epidemic of sexual assault and harassment, is expected to bring change on how these situations are handled. It is also encouraging women to share their experiences in a show of solidarity. But for some, such as 23-year-old Salvadoran immigrant Laura Monterrosa, going public about her experiences could ultimately lead to her deportation." Read more about This Woman Was Sexually Assaulted In An Immigration Detention Center And Now Risks Deportation

Mar 15, 2018
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Texas Observer

Texas Prison System Sheds Men, Swallows Even More Women

"Travis County officials say they’ve implemented a laundry list of reforms to divert people from jail in recent years, such as drug courts and cite-and-release policies for certain low-level offenses. But the coalition of community activists, drug treatment providers and formerly incarcerated women who attended last week’s commission meeting questioned how well those programs are working, particularly for women. For instance, the number of women with mental health issues booked into the jail has doubled since 2013.

'What are our mental health diversion programs doing?' Cate Graziani, a researcher with Grassroots Leadership, told commissioners. 'That is an indicator that they’re not working.'

[...] Brandi French, who first entered prison at age 19, asked Travis County commissioners last week to put the money they would have spent building a new women’s jail into community recovery programs.

French, who calls herself a recovering drug addict, says she spent most of her 20s behind bars. She tried both college and church to stay sober, but neither worked. When she was 34, she went with her child to a place called Austin Recovery, one of only three treatment centers in Texas that allow women to bring their children with them. 'It was the first time I was ever diagnosed with bipolar disorder,' French told commissioners. 'First time, after seven years in prison. Nobody ever looked at my mental health issues.'

'Building a new prison is not the answer,' she said. 'Putting sick people behind bars is not the answer.'" Read more about Texas Prison System Sheds Men, Swallows Even More Women

Mar 14, 2018
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Texas Tribune

After ruling on Texas' "sanctuary cities" law, opponents say they're down but not out

"Another option is for local governments to adopt or continue policies where being charged for an alleged misdemeanor doesn’t trigger automatic arrest, said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based immigrant rights and private-prison watchdog group.

'Local officials need to act swiftly to stop the arrest-to-deportation pipeline that will be accelerated by SB 4,' Libal said. 'They can start by enacting policies that end discretionary arrests while ensuring that scarce public resources are not wasted on unnecessary immigration enforcement actions that terrorize the immigrant community.'" Read more about After ruling on Texas' "sanctuary cities" law, opponents say they're down but not out

Mar 14, 2018
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Shadowproof

Immigration Officials Attempt to Deport Detained Sexual Abuse Victim After Agreeing to Provide Treatment

A private immigrant detention center in Texas failed to provide mental health treatment to a woman who said she was sexually abused by a guard, according to expert testimony in federal court on March 13.

The testimony from two professionals who conducted mental health assessments of the victim led immigration officials to enter a settlement in which they agreed to provide care. The next day, however, they tried to deport her.

On March 14, ICE allegedly attempted to force Monterrosa to sign papers that would initiate her deportation, but she refused. At the time of this writing, advocates from the local immigrant rights group Grassroots Leadership are at the Austin campaign offices of United States Representative Beto O’Rourke, demanding an intervention. They say she could be deported at any moment.

The local immigrant rights group Grassroots Leadership has repeatedly argued ICE is using “medical care” as a cover for their retaliation and insisted Monterrosa’s health care needs were not being met. They have staged protests and arranged visitation with lawmakers at Hutto. They’ve also testified at county commissioner meetings and circulated petitions demanding her release. A city council member was arbitrarily denied access to the facility in February when he tried to visit Monterrosa. Read more about Immigration Officials Attempt to Deport Detained Sexual Abuse Victim After Agreeing to Provide Treatment

Mar 9, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

County Delays Funding for New Women’s Jail

"Five months of protesting by criminal justice organizations culminated Tuesday with activists and former inmates packing the Travis County Commissioners Courtroom to speak against a new women's jailbuilding that is expected to cost nearly $100 million. Despite the groups' concerns, most commissioners had seemed ready to approve $6.6 million for the facility's design and preconstruction. But in a last-minute turn of events, they voted to delay the funding for a year in order to improve the county's efforts of reducing incarceration.

'The vote today is exactly the outcome we wanted,' said Holly Kirby, director of criminal justice programs for Grassroots Leadership. 'The commissioners heard community voices and listened. They made the right call today, and we are excited to get to work on driving down the jail population and investing in a healthier and safer Travis County."' Read more about County Delays Funding for New Women’s Jail

Mar 7, 2018
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Austin Monitor

Commissioners Court hits pause on new women’s unit at county jail

"The Travis County Commissioners Court has shelved for a full year what was supposed to be the first installment of a $97 million plan to build a new housing unit for female inmates at the county’s jail complex in Del Valle.

The 3-1 vote came on Tuesday afternoon following lengthy and occasionally tearful testimony from criminal justice reform activists who uniformly decried the proposal to replace the existing women’s unit with a larger facility.

'We have heard you all say you want the same things that we do, that you want to see fewer people locked up, that you want community voices at the table,' Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at Grassroots Leadership, told the court before its members voted. “We need to see that you mean what you say.”' Read more about Commissioners Court hits pause on new women’s unit at county jail

Mar 7, 2018
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Community Impact News

Travis County Commissioners delay women’s jail expansion in 3-1 vote

"Members of the community, however, felt that $6.2 million should be used for mental health services and diversion programs. Over 20 Travis County residents and local criminal justice leaders gave testimony Tuesday afternoon on the topic.

Criminal Justice Program Director with Grassroots Leadership Holly Kirby urged commissioners to halt the construction on the women’s facility asking that more research be done in creating and improving diversion programs and reducing the jail population.

'You have the power right now to show all of us and the rest of Travis County that you are committed to doing something about the mass incarceration crisis in our community before any dollars are spent on a new expanded jail,' Kirby said. 'Please vote no on a new women’s jail today and let us work with you for truly a healthier and safer Travis County.”' Read more about Travis County Commissioners delay women’s jail expansion in 3-1 vote

Mar 6, 2018
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Patch

Travis County Commissioners Vote To Delay Jail Expansion Funding

"Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, celebrated the move after she and other criminal justice reform advocates testified for an hour prior to the vote. 

'The vote today is a huge victory for us,' Kirby said. 'The commissioners listened to the community and made the right choice. Ultimately, this is about what our community values: health, safety, and equity. The vote today opens the door for us to get to work on downsizing our jail and investing in community alternatives for a safer, healthier and more just Travis County."' Read more about Travis County Commissioners Vote To Delay Jail Expansion Funding

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