(AUSTIN, Texas) — On the second anniversary of Sandra Bland’s death in a Waller County Jail, Austin criminal justice and immigrant rights groups and formerly incarcerated Austinites are reacting to a new report from Grassroots Leadership that shows dramatic racial disparities in the Travis County Jail. Advocates are calling on local officials to act to reduce incarceration rates and racial disparities in the jail. Read more about New report points to racism and longer confinement of African Americans in Travis County Jail
Last Thursday night, organizing efforts by a powerful group of formerly incarcerated people and their allies made history by making Austin the first Fair Chance Hiring City in the South! Austin City Council voted 8-2 to pass a Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance — an anti-discrimination policy that moves the background check to the end of the hiring process for most private employers, allowing candidates to be considered based on their merits first, without the stigma of a conviction history. Read more about VICTORY! Austin becomes the first city in the South to pass a Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance!
In the coming weeks, Austin City Council will be debating a Fair Chance Hiring (FCH) ordinance aimed at eliminating employment discrimination against individuals in Austin with a criminal record. This would be a huge step toward creating a more equitable Austin, strengthening our communities, and dismantling institutional racism in our city.
What exactly is Fair Chance Hiring? Read more about What you need to know about Fair Chance Hiring in Austin!
Many jails, including Travis’, have moved in recent years to offering only video-based visitation, in which guests communicate with their incarcerated loved ones through a Skype-like monitor. The new law requires counties to maintain in-person visitation as an option but exempted counties that had already spent a significant amount implementing a video-only system. Travis County, which in 2012 approved a contract with Securus Technologies to add video capabilities to its downtown jail and the correctional complex in Del Valle, was exempted this month.
But the Austin-based nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, which opposes the privatization of prison services, is questioning whether the county should have been granted the exemption because the Securus contract said that the company, not the taxpayers, was on the hook for the program. ...
Lauren Johnson, a criminal justice fellow with Grassroots Leadership, said the group is not contesting whether the law requires in-person visitation at those two facilities but believes it should be made available for inmates who live in the rest of the buildings. ...
“Video is a perfectly reasonable option,” Quong Charles said. “The fact that at Travis County it is the only type of visitation available to anybody — and on top of that, the fact that the county and a for-profit corporation are making money on its usage — we don’t think that that’s kosher. We don’t think that that’s a smart way or a just way.”
(AUSTIN, Texas) — At a press conference today, the #LetSulmaStay campaign released a letter with signatures from over 60 active members and leaders of faith communities around the country, saying, “We write today to say that we want Sulma [Franco] to stay. Not only does Sulma not meet ICE priority removal requirements, but by forcing her into sanctuary ICE has ensured that she cannot provide for her own material needs. Read more about Local faith leaders come together to voice support for LGBT activist taking sanctuary in First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
WHAT: Press conference releasing a letter from 60 clergy and people of faith to stop the deportation of Sulma Franco
WHO: Sulma Franco, Rev. Marisol Caballero (Assistant Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Austin) Rev. Jim Rigby (Pastor, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Austin) Rev. Mark Skrabacz (Pastor, San Gabriel Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Georgetown), and Attorneys Alexandra Minnaar and Natalie Hansen
WHEN: Wednesday, July 29th, 10:30am
WHERE: First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4300 Grover Ave., Austin, TX, 78756 Read more about Local faith leaders come together to voice support for LGBT activist taking sanctuary in First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
"We're very happy the City Council has taken leadership on this issue," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.
"Republican sheriffs in California, Colorado, Kansas, rural Oregon, have said they're not going to violate people's rights and honor ICE detainers," Libal said. "It's very frustrating that the sheriff continues to demonize the immigrant community and perpetuate outright lies about them." Read more about Hamilton Digs In: Won't End 'S-Comm'
Travis County ranks 11th in the nation when it comes to the number of people deported. A total of 4,741 people have been deported from the county in the last fiveyears.
"I think that really puts him on the wrong side of history," Bob Libal with Grassroots Leadership.
Libal said recent court decisions essentially allow jails to ignore requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain inmates. "This is devastating to the immigrant community," he said. "It also wastes taxpayer dollars, and it's illegal." Read more about Sheriff: Deportation Program is Federally Mandated
People have been saying for years that there is a deportation crisis in Travis County, Texas, fueled by the federal S-Comm (Secure Communities) program in the jail.
New data released Tuesday shows just how bad things have gotten. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, over the last two years ICE and Sheriff Greg Hamilton have been particularly busy rounding up Austin-area residents.
From 2013-2014, ICE placed a total of 5,507 “holds” on individuals in Travis County Jail. A hold is a request from the federal government that the jail “hold” someone for two extra days so that ICE can come investigate. The cause for ICE’s investigation can be very flimsy. For example, if they don’t have the fingerprints on record and the individual just happens to have a Hispanic last name. It’s no small wonder they have issued thousands of holds here.Read more about Humpday Hall of Shame: Yes, Austin. You have a deportation crisis.