WHAT: Press conference and testimony in front of Travis County Commissioners Court
WHO: Texas Advocates for Justice, formerly incarcerated residents, and criminal justice reform advocates
WHEN: Friday, September 23rd — Press conference at 8:30 a.m. and testimony begins at 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Travis County Commissioners Court, 700 Lavaca St., Austin, TX, 78701.
(AUSTIN, Texas) — A group of formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones will be joined by a coalition of criminal justice reform advocates on Friday, September 23rd, to call on the Travis County Commissioners Court to address rising incarceration rates at the Travis County Jail. A press conference will take place prior to their testimony.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Department has asked for 36 additional officers to staff the Travis County Jail, which has experienced a slow but steady increase in the jail population over the last 18 months despite falling arrest rates in the County and historically low crime rates across the country.
Texas Advocates for Justice, a statewide network of formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones will testify to the detrimental impact of the ongoing incarceration crisis in Travis County, especially on individuals and families that can least afford long-term incarceration.
Racial disparities also plague the jail. During the first half of last year, black people accounted for 24% of bookings, while making up only 8.9% of the general population in Travis County.
“The TCSO is asking for more officers even when crime indicators are falling. When a decision is made to use limited funds to increase staffing in jails, that means there is less funds for the communities of color whose members sit in those jails, most of them not yet convicted of a crime.” said Jorge Renaud, Texas Advocates for Justice organizer.
Advocacy groups will call on the Commission to address the incarceration crisis in Travis County as part of the budget process.
“Rising incarceration rates do not reflect the values of our community,” said Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director for Grassroots Leadership, “The county should not throw more money at the jail without setting clear goals for lowering the jail population over the next year.”
“Travis County can make much better use of pre-trial services,” said Renaud. He also pointed out that local agencies that offer services to individuals with mental health issues lack dependable funding, and that many of those individuals inevitably ended up in jail, which only worsens their problems.
“Travis County taxpayers are paying for a broken system,” said Rebecca Bernhardt, Executive Director of the Texas Fair Defense Project, “Keeping so many people in jail before their trial does not protect public safety - it only costs taxpayers money. The judges could start releasing more low-risk people tomorrow.”
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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.
Holly Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-499-8111
Jorge Renaud, email@example.com, 512-499-8111