This D.A. election could bring a big change in how Austin, Texas treats drug addiction

March 2, 2020
The Appeal

When Michael Bryant was found with illegal drugs last year, it landed him in jail for about a month, exacerbating his problems with addiction.

Bryant, who is now 33, had been struggling with drug addiction for much of his life, and the problems got worse in 2015, when he moved to Austin from New York after a difficult breakup. In February 2019, police found him with less than two ounces of marijuana a small amount of methamphetamines. He was charged with second-degree drug possession for the methamphetamines, even though Bryant says he had less than a gram diluted with water in a syringe.

His public defender told him that given the other drug-related felonies on his record, there was likely little he could do to avoid jail time, Bryant said. He badly needed treatment, and said he was just coming around to the idea of rehab. But before he could get help, he became entangled in the legal system and now owes thousands of dollars to probation.

“I don’t think that throwing people in jail and convicting them and throwing them in prison for small charges like that is going to do them any good,” Bryant said. “Those people aren’t going to get the help they need. They’re just going to get right out of prison and go right back to using drugs.”