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

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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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TOP statement on Dallas County Bail Lawsuit

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The following statement was made by Tarsha Jackson, criminal justice director of Texas Organizing Project (TOP), on the lawsuit filed against the Dallas County bail system:

“We applaud the filing of a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of Dallas County’s bail system that requires people to buy their freedom, effectively punishing them before guilt has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the cornerstone principle of our justice system.

“A majority of people in the Dallas County Jail are there because they can’t afford bail. Not only is this practice in violation of the Eighth Amendment, but it is costly to taxpayers and disproportionately hurts people of color. Even a couple of days spent in jail can be devastating to people already living on the margins of society.

“Also, keeping people in jail on excessive bonds serves to cover up deep and intractable societal problems including drug addiction and mental health.

“TOP and Faith in Texas are partnering to organize the community around bail reform and urge the county to settle this lawsuit because it is indefensible.

“We are confident that courts will ultimately stop Dallas County from keeping people in jail simply because they can’t afford to pay for their freedom. The main question left to be answered is how much taxpayer money will District Attorney Faith Johnson waste to defend this unjust practice?”

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Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.

‘Ciudades santuario’: Aprueban resolución a favor de inmigrantes en Dallas

Resolution Dallas Co

Luego de testimonios sobre el aporte de los inmigrantes y un tenso debate en torno a las llamadas “ciudades santuarios”, el condado de Dallas aprobó el martes por 4-1 una resolución que hace un llamado a terminar las colaboraciones “no esenciales” con las autoridades de inmigración.

El documento “Welcoming Communities”, que no es legalmente vinculante, fue impulsada por la comisionada Elba García y el juez del condado Clay Jenkins, ambos demócratas. El voto en contra vino del único republicano en la corte de comisionados, Mike Cantrell.

“América se trata de las oportunidades… de ayudarnos los unos a los otros”, dijo García, al recordar que ella misma es una inmigrante de México.

La sala estuvo repleta de activistas y residentes del condado que fueron a hablar ante los comisionados, en su gran mayoría para pedirles que apoyaran el texto en el que el condado apoya a los inmigrantes, con o sin documentos, como “miembros integrales de la comunidad”.

Al llamar a los cuerpos de seguridad locales a limitar la colaboración con el Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE), la resolución pide que se implementen los estatutos en contra de los crímenes de odio cuando se “cometan crímenes en contra de una persona debido a su identidad o estatus migratorio”.

No incluye más detalles sobre cómo se limitaría esa cooperación.

La resolución fue aprobada luego de que el presidente Donald Trump firmara una orden ejecutiva ordenando retirar subvenciones federales a aquellas jurisdicciones consideradas “santuarios”, un término vago que implica que limitan su cooperación con las autoridades migratorias.

Al mismo tiempo, el gobernador Greg Abbott ha dicho que aprobar una legislación que castigue a las llamadas “ciudades santuarios” es una de sus prioridades. El Senado texano tenía planeado discutir un proyecto de ley al respecto SB4 el martes en la noche.

Ante una corte de comisionados repleta este martes, abogados de inmigración hablaron de clientes que están aterrados porque temen una deportación.

“Aprueben esta resolución para que esta sea una ciudad segura”, dijo la abogada Susan Bond.

Entre sus clientes tiene a científicos, doctores y otros profesionales que están asustados por los cambios en la política migratoria, dijo.

“Imagínense cómo pueden sentirse los que no tienen documentos”, acotó.

No quieren que la policía esté revisando sus papeles en lugar de dedicar esos recursos a responder llamadas de 911, señaló.

Con la voz quebrada, Bond contó que fue la primera en su hogar en ir a la universidad. La persona que la impulsó a continuar sus estudios fue Rosa, la madre indocumentada de su mejor amiga.

Diana Ramírez, activista con Workers Defense Project, dijo que creció como indocumentada, intentando que aquellos a su alrededor la vieran.

“No podemos estar más en silencio”, dijo.

Dan la espalda Los ánimos se caldearon cuando el concejal Lee Kleinman pidió no incluir la sección que pide poner fin a la cooperación con ICE porque podría llevar a que el estado recortase los fondos. Activistas en la sala se voltearon y le dieron la espalda.

En otro momento, cuando el juez Jenkins invitó a un imán a tomar el micrófono, el comisionado Cantrell le dijo que no le gustaba cómo dirigía las sesiones en la corte.

Tanto Jenkins como García aseguraron que la resolución no convierte al condado en una “ciudad santuario”.

Cuando llegó la votación, Cantrell refutó esa aseveración.

“Esta es una resolución que apoya una frontera abierta”, dijo. “Está haciendo del condado de Dallas un condado santuario”.

Espera que tanto el presidente Donald Trump como el gobernador Greg Abbott hagan “todo lo que esté en sus manos para proteger este país y su gente”. Aseveró que la resolución busca avanzar una agenda política.

This story originally appeared 2/7/2017 in Al Día.