February 13, 2016
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Formerly incarcerated and immigrant community members conducted a Travis County Sheriff Candidates Forum today to elevate questions and concerns of those directly impacted by criminal justice and immigration enforcement policies at the county level. Co-hosted by Grassroots Leadership and the ICE Out of Austin Coalition, the agenda included issues related to jail conditions; access to and quality of treatment, services, and rehabilitative programming, including mental health and trauma-informed care; law enforcement and alternatives to arrest and incarceration; re-entry; visitation; immigration enforcement and candidates’ intentions regarding collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sally Hernandez, Joe Martinez, Todd Radford, Don Rios, John Sisson, and Debbie Russell comprised the candidate panel.
Driven by a community-led planning process, the program amplified voices of those most directly impacted by the sheriff’s policies. Jorge Renaud, a member of the planning committee stated, "the rush to be ‘tough on crime’ has devastated economically disadvantaged communities of color, and criminal justice policy makers have historically ignored those most affected. As we seek to amend those decisions it is crucial that we seek out and listen to the voices of the formerly incarcerated and their families."
“We are here today because of the organizing done my immigrant community members. Over the last two years our organizing has made it possible for many of the candidates for Sheriff to publicly denounce collaboration between Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement,” said Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “Now we want those statements to turn into policies that will finally end the collaboration between Travis County and ICE.”
Looking forward, participants emphasized establishing an ongoing community dialogue with the new sheriff in order to hold them accountable to campaign promises and to be a partner in making systems changes that improve the lives of those who find themselves incarcerated in Travis county, their family members and the community at-large.
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.
Kymberlie Quong Charles, firstname.lastname@example.org, (512) 499-8111
Alejandro Caceres, email@example.com, (512) 703-7059