A extremely anticipated Travis County Commissioners Court docket assembly Tuesday was extra contentious than common and lasted later into the night to accommodate hours of public feedback criticizing a plan to allocate $80 million to fund a brand new girls’s jail.
Although the merchandise in query particularly referred to the $4.3 million design contract for the Travis County Trauma Knowledgeable Girls’s Facility Challenge, criticism centered mainly on the broader plan: to spend $80 million – as a part of a $600 million grasp plan – on a correctional facility enlargement, versus allocating the cash towards prevention-based neighborhood providers.
A separate merchandise, which was in style with the general public, proposed the redevelopment and substitute of the grasp plan with a working group tasked with lowering the variety of incarcerated girls. The identical merchandise moreover put ahead that the ultimate resolution needs to be delayed for a minimum of a 12 months, pending the conclusion of the working group. (“Vote no on 16 and sure on 29,” was the chorus of public callers.)
Regardless of preliminary pushback from commissioners Brigid Shea and Jeff Travillion, the movement finally handed following hours of public remark from professors, legal professionals, members of advocacy teams and previously incarcerated folks.
“Right now at Commissioners Court docket, we voted to take a position in the neighborhood by supporting a re-envisioned plan for our justice system. Due to the unprecedented neighborhood opposition, the court docket stated no to constructing a brand new jail,” County Choose Andy Brown stated in a press release. Brown had spearheaded the movement, together with Commissioner Ann Howard.
“This takes into consideration that the inhabitants has modified, many different issues have modified. It directs employees not simply to take a look at points akin to competency restoration, psychological and behavioral well being care outdoors of the jail. What we’re asking employees to do can be to come back again to us with a proposal to replace the present plan,” Brown stated.
The unique grasp plan was the results of a programs wants evaluation carried out in partnership with quite a lot of outdoors consultants. Nonetheless, as legal justice reform advocates famous, the projections made by consultants had been off-base as they didn’t account for a considerably decreased jail inhabitants. Whereas consultants initially assumed a jail inhabitants of greater than 2,700 by 2021, in actuality the quantity is about half that immediately.
“How can we get the required info that we’d like? How can we cope with the truth that Constructing 12 – the latest constructing on the market – solely has 700 folks in it and a capability for 1,300?” Brown stated. “I do know that our jail inhabitants may be very low in comparison with when that first strategic plan got here out. In my conversations with individuals who truly work within the jail with corrections duties, they inform me that we may match each single certainly one of these girls, appropriately spaced out, into Constructing 12.”
The query stays how a lot cash will likely be reallocated to non-jail-related functions.
Editor’s Be aware: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Basis, the mum or dad nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.
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