​Community calls for investment in public health, public defense—not more money for mass incarceration

April 23, 2019

Community members will attend Travis County Commissioners Court to urge commissioners not to invest more money in jails  


For immediate release: April 23, 2019

AUSTIN, Tex. —  Travis County Commissioners will meet today to hear the new bed projections for the planning and design of the women’s jail and vote to approve them. This action is the first in a series of votes that will increase investments in a failed system of mass incarceration after the commissioners voted last March to hold funding for the design and pre-construction of the new women’s jail.

Community stakeholders were notified of the upcoming vote at the last minute, preventing the voices of those most directly affected from being part of holistic conversations regarding ending mass incarceration. Claudia Muñoz, Immigration Programs Director at Grassroots Leadership, expressed her frustration over county officials’ inaction towards envisioning a long-term plan to invest in the safety of Travis County residents by ending mass incarceration. “We have yet to see honest intent from commissioners and other county stakeholders to have conversations regarding putting an end to mass incarceration here in Travis County. The past year could have been better spent finding solutions that bring safety and resources to our communities, and ultimately put an end to mass incarceration in Travis County once and for all."

“Instead of investing in more jails and institutions that further criminalize and jail Black and Brown people, the money at the county’s disposal should instead be diverted towards strategies that end mass incarceration, including fair and equal representation and pre-arrest diversion,” said Annette Price, statewide director for Texas Advocates for Justice, a network of formerly incarcerated people in Texas. “That starts with divesting from building new jails and investing in the creation of a public defender’s office here in Travis County. Our work does not end there, as this is just the first of many battles ahead to ensure Black and Brown communities are safe, heard, and fairly represented. Our community deserves help—not handcuffs or jail beds.”

“Rather than a jail master plan, we need a plan to end to mass incarceration in Travis County,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership.  “What we have seen is that community-led efforts led by directly-impacted voices — from the Freedom City policy to the sobering center — have been effective in reducing the jail population.”

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.