Austin

Apr 24, 2018
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Community Impact News

After one year, fair chance hiring ordinance leaves room for improvement

"Lewis Conway Jr., criminal justice organizer at the Austin nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, said that this campaign has been inadequate.

He pointed to the video, which was posted on YouTube in February 2017 and as of April 2 had been viewed 212 times.

Conway, who served eight years in prison and 12 on parole for voluntary manslaughter, campaigned on behalf of the ordinance.

'As a formerly incarcerated person, employment was probably the most important thing in my life, especially when it’s a condition of parole,' he said.

...“This [ordinance] is an opportunity to put people back into the cycle of life,” Conway said." Read more about After one year, fair chance hiring ordinance leaves room for improvement

Community Rallies to Say Homelessness Is Not A Crime

WHAT: Press Conference and Gathering Ground “No Sit/No Lie” performance

WHO: People experiencing homelessness and their allies with the DecarcerateATX coalition, with speakers from Gathering Ground, Texas Fair Defense, University United Methodist Church, and Grassroots Leadership

WHEN:   Tuesday, April 3 at 9 a.m.

WHERE: Austin Convention Center, Atrium Entrance (Trinity St. & E 4th St..) Read more about Community Rallies to Say Homelessness Is Not A Crime

Mar 23, 2018
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New York Times

In Austin, a Bomber’s Rampage Exposes Racial Fault Lines Long Buried

"Alejandro Caceres, 30, an organizer for Grassroots Leadership, a prison reform and immigrant rights group, who lives and works in East Austin, said he believed the police were dismissing the concerns of black and Hispanic residents that the bombings were, at least in part, racially motivated.

'We’re being told that all of our feelings and our realities are not true, that this person was not targeting black and brown people, that this person was not a terrorist,' Mr. Caceres said." Read more about In Austin, a Bomber’s Rampage Exposes Racial Fault Lines Long Buried

Mar 23, 2018
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KUT

Some See Danger In Rush To Appoint Manley Permanent Austin Police Chief

'“It makes no sense to make an appointment as serious as this in the immediate aftermath of something so complex and fast-moving,' said Chris Harris with the criminal justice reform group Grassroots Leadership.

He said the quick appointment of Manley to permanent chief would rob Austinites of the chance to participate in the process by which they normally make important city hires.

'If we don’t take the opportunity to get whomever will be the next chief to be on record as supporting policies that reflect the values of the community,' Harris said, 'then we’ve lost an extremely valuable opportunity to ensure we improve our police force.'" Read more about Some See Danger In Rush To Appoint Manley Permanent Austin Police Chief

Mar 6, 2018
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Austin American-Statesman

Travis commissioners to hold off on women’s jail expansion

"Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, said after the meeting that she was pleasantly surprised by the vote.

'In the end, we got what we came for,' Kirby said. 'I think they heard us, I think they heard the very important stories from people who have been in the system … Del Valle is not the place for treatment, it’s not the place for care, and we are ready to get to work.'" Read more about Travis commissioners to hold off on women’s jail expansion

Mar 7, 2018
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Community Impact News

Travis County Commissioners delay women’s jail expansion in 3-1 vote

"Members of the community, however, felt that $6.2 million should be used for mental health services and diversion programs. Over 20 Travis County residents and local criminal justice leaders gave testimony Tuesday afternoon on the topic.

Criminal Justice Program Director with Grassroots Leadership Holly Kirby urged commissioners to halt the construction on the women’s facility asking that more research be done in creating and improving diversion programs and reducing the jail population.

'You have the power right now to show all of us and the rest of Travis County that you are committed to doing something about the mass incarceration crisis in our community before any dollars are spent on a new expanded jail,' Kirby said. 'Please vote no on a new women’s jail today and let us work with you for truly a healthier and safer Travis County.”' Read more about Travis County Commissioners delay women’s jail expansion in 3-1 vote

Mar 7, 2018
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Austin Monitor

Commissioners Court hits pause on new women’s unit at county jail

"The Travis County Commissioners Court has shelved for a full year what was supposed to be the first installment of a $97 million plan to build a new housing unit for female inmates at the county’s jail complex in Del Valle.

The 3-1 vote came on Tuesday afternoon following lengthy and occasionally tearful testimony from criminal justice reform activists who uniformly decried the proposal to replace the existing women’s unit with a larger facility.

'We have heard you all say you want the same things that we do, that you want to see fewer people locked up, that you want community voices at the table,' Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at Grassroots Leadership, told the court before its members voted. “We need to see that you mean what you say.”' Read more about Commissioners Court hits pause on new women’s unit at county jail

Mar 6, 2018
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Patch

Travis County Commissioners Vote To Delay Jail Expansion Funding

"Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, celebrated the move after she and other criminal justice reform advocates testified for an hour prior to the vote. 

'The vote today is a huge victory for us,' Kirby said. 'The commissioners listened to the community and made the right choice. Ultimately, this is about what our community values: health, safety, and equity. The vote today opens the door for us to get to work on downsizing our jail and investing in community alternatives for a safer, healthier and more just Travis County."' Read more about Travis County Commissioners Vote To Delay Jail Expansion Funding

Feb 25, 2018
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Austin Chronicle

Police: Special Pay Benefits Back, Contract Negotiations Coming Soon

"After a confusing bit of parliamentary gymnastics, City Council last week approved a pair of amendments directing the city manager to resume meet-and-confer negotiations with the Austin Police Association, and also restoring most of the special pay provisions officers lost when union membership voted against extending the old contract back in December. Though police interests praised the action, the city's activist community left the meeting on Thursday feeling like Council had forgotten the voices that only two months ago called for a new approach to public safety spending. At the tail-end of talks, Grass­roots Leadership organizer Chris Harris summed up the afternoon: 'We're banging our heads against a wall.'

... Harris was more blunt, asking why Council would restore funding when union membership could've agreed to an extension in Dec­ember. 'Three weeks ago, Bryan Richter, the officer that brutalized Breaion King, was finally fired after another brutal arrest,' he said. 'This is a force that still employs Patrick Spradlin, the officer who made blatantly racist remarks to King in the back of the vehicle. Instead of restoring perks that they walked away from, we ask that you restore the oversight that was also lost when the police left the negotiation table and killed their own contract.'

Despite those arguments, council members expressed concern about the impacts on officers and ultimately approved both resolutions. Negotiators will be tasked with increasing field training and longevity in the next round of bargaining. APA President Ken Casaday expressed satisfaction in the results and indicated that the union will be ready to go back to the table as soon as Council gives them a date. As that happens, the activist coalition will continue its work on a plan to overhaul the oversight process with an independent complaint system. 'We'd like to see a chance for something like it to get off the ground and see what it can do,' Harris said. 'And then see how it could be strengthened, potentially, via contract or some other method.'" Read more about Police: Special Pay Benefits Back, Contract Negotiations Coming Soon

Feb 17, 2018
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Huffington Post

What Happened to Norma's Brain?

"Now, armed with her new diagnosis, Norma could understand the source of her anxieties. The constant sense of foreboding, the extreme fear of speaking in class, the guardedness around her white colleagues — these were classic examples of PTSD-associated hypervigilance.

[...] Her work has become more rewarding too. She left her old job at the Texas state capitol at the end of 2016, knowing that the Republican-dominated legislature planned to pass a statewide immigration crackdown that mirrored Trump’s agenda. She now works in mental health and criminal justice advocacy with Austin-based Grassroots Leadership." Read more about What Happened to Norma's Brain?

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