Judge Eckhardt

Mar 6, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Travis commissioners to hold off on women’s jail expansion

"Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, said after the meeting that she was pleasantly surprised by the vote.

'In the end, we got what we came for,' Kirby said. 'I think they heard us, I think they heard the very important stories from people who have been in the system … Del Valle is not the place for treatment, it’s not the place for care, and we are ready to get to work.'" Read more about Travis commissioners to hold off on women’s jail expansion

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 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 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

Jul 21, 2017
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The Austin Chronicle

Commissioners to Discuss Racial Disparities in County Jail

Grassroots Leadership report indicates detainees of color face inequalities

County Commissioners will hold a work session July 27 to discuss the county's pretrial programs and ways to better address racial disparities at the county jail, a direct response to a report issued July 13 by Grassroots Leadership. The local activist organization used the county's 2015 booking data to conclude that black people face disproportionately longer jail stays and are incarcerated at a higher rate than their white counterparts charged with the same crimes. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt told the Chronicle that while she's not surprised by the report's findings, she and County Commissioners are taking it "very seriously."

...

Despite these diversions, minorities are still experiencing higher rates of incarceration. While accounting for only 8% of Travis County's population, black people in 2015 represented 22% of jail bookings. As for days spent in jail, on average, white detainees were locked up for 16.88 days, while black detainees were held an average of 22.53 days. Eckhardt called the report "helpful" and said the county will continue to analyze it. "Unfortunately, there's no silver bullet for institutionalized racism," she said. "We have to acknowledge that sentencing is different for brown and black people and start having really uncomfortable conversations." Eckhardt said the county must question whether or not the pretrial program is improving lives or further entangling people in the criminal justice system.

"We've been asking this from a race neutral standpoint because we thought race neutral would fix it, but it's not working. We need to ask if this is better or worse for defendants of color." Read more about Commissioners to Discuss Racial Disparities in County Jail

Face-to-Face Visits Return to Travis County Jail

(AUSTIN, Texas) —  Today Grassroots Leadership celebrates the return of in-person visitation to the Travis County Jail.  The decision to restore face-to-face in-person visits follows years of advocacy by formerly incarcerated people, their families, and allies after it was removed in favor of video visits administered by a private, for-profit technology company called Securus in 2013. Read more about Face-to-Face Visits Return to Travis County Jail
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