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TOP Ed Fund, Faith In Texas Join Dallas County Bail Practices Lawsuit to Demand Public Access to Bail Proceedings

DALLAS — Today, January 30, 2018, social justice organizations Texas Organizing Project Education Fund and Faith in Texas became plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleging unconstitutional bail practices in Dallas County, TX, by Civil Rights Corps, the Texas Fair Defense Project, the ACLU of Texas, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed on January 21, 2018. The organizations, who are working to end mass incarceration in Dallas County, were denied access to bail proceedings by the Dallas County Sheriff in violation of the public’s First Amendment rights.

“Justice can’t be done in secret,” said Tarsha Jackson, criminal justice director for Texas Organizing Project Education Fund. “We are all entitled to fair treatment under the law, and right now by keeping bail proceedings behind closed doors, Dallas County is denying its residents, the accused and the public at large, a basic tenet of our criminal justice system—free and open access. We want to force open those doors, and shine a bright light on the injustices being committed on poor people who are being incarcerated before guilt has been established because they can’t afford to buy their freedom. As a group that organizes people of color so they can fight for the power and representation they deserve, Texas Organizing Project Education Fund is proud to join this lawsuit as a plaintiff.”

The lawsuit’s amended complaint alleges that Dallas County and the Dallas County Sheriff have prevented representatives from Texas Organizing Project Education Fund and Faith in Texas from attending and observing the proceedings where people charged with offenses are told their bail amounts, which the First Amendment requires to be open to the public.

“Matthew 25 teaches us that it is our duty as Christians to help the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the weary, and those in prison,” said Rev. Edwin Robinson, executive director for Faith in Texas. “As people of faith we believe it’s not just our responsibility or our legal right, but more importantly it is our faithful calling to be with our sisters and brothers in every place of human need. Being denied access to bail proceedings is not just a hurdle, but a brick wall preventing us from living out our sacred calling of caring for our neighbors.”

The original suit, filed on behalf of six plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, accuses officials in the county of operating a two-tiered system of justice based on wealth in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Faith in Texas and Texas Organizing Project Education Fund are doing tremendous work pushing to end mass incarceration in Dallas County,” said Kali Cohn, staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “As plaintiffs in this lawsuit, they are standing up once again to demand that the public has the tools to hold decision makers accountable.”

Read the amended complaint here.

Texas Organizing Project Education Fund organizes Black and Latino communities in Harris, Bexar and Dallas counties. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.

Faith in Texas is a multi-racial faith movement for social justice. We train teams of leaders in local churches, mosques, and synagogues that serve people of color and low and moderate income people.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is the leading civil rights organization in the Lone Star State. Since our formation in 1938, we have worked in the courts, the legislature, and through public education to protect civil rights and individual liberty.

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice fights mass incarceration and combats racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The campaign’s bail reform initiative focuses on ending money bail and eliminating wealth-based pretrial detention.

Civil Rights Corps is a non-profit organization dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the American legal system. We work with individuals accused and convicted of crimes, their families and communities, people currently or formerly incarcerated, activists, organizers, judges, and government officials to challenge mass human caging and to create a legal system that promotes equality and human freedom.

The Texas Fair Defense Project’s mission is to fight for a criminal justice system that respects the rights of low-income Texans. We envision a new system of justice that is fair, compassionate, and respectful.

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