"I’m supportive of trying everything we can regarding jail diversion efforts, especially for misdemeanor cases. But, jail diversion efforts will take time, and I expect activist groups (especially Grassroots Leadership) to help with this effort. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those who didn’t want the county to go ahead with the new women’s facility will be actively involved in meaningful ways to divert women from our jail. Effective jail diversion efforts will also take lots of money and community services, which means taxpayers would more than likely have to foot the bill. In the meantime, this office is working diligently in trying to find ways to lower our overall jail population by being an active participant in our Jail Population Monitoring Group." Read more about Travis County eyes new women’s jail facility
"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
"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