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“Let’s Build A San Antonio Sin Miedo For Everyone”

San Antonio criminal justice reform coalition: “Let’s fundamentally rethink the role of jails, prisons, and punishment in our city. Let’s transform the way we think about discipline and policing in our schools.”

Immigrant rights and criminal justice reform organizations from across San Antonio came together yesterday to celebrate the fruits of their year-long battle to push a cite-and-release policy to the heart of political conversations in the city.

Representatives of many of the 26 organizations that make-up SA Stands - the Alamo city’s immigration and criminal justice coalition - held a press conference outside city hall to celebrate the decision to begin a cite-and-release program this Summer.

As District Attorney Joe Gonzales, detailed the new policies his office would be using to guide prosecutions for minor offenses, members of community organizations that had worked behind the scenes to push cite-and-release into the political discussion, rallied separately to remind city officials that the work is far from over.

“After months of organizing, the San Antonio community is optimistic for the potential of ‘Cite and Release’ to reduce the number of our neighbors facing jail time or a mark on their record for minor infractions,” said Carolina Canizales, Texas Campaign Strategist at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center​.

“The ultimate success of this policy relies on officers using their discretion and choosing citations over arrests for low-level offenses. We urge Bexar County law enforcement to work with the community on this issue. We ask for transparency and need SAPD and the DA’s office to release the full policy, hear community feedback, record and share data from the implementation of this program, and continually review practices and procedures. Only with this open dialogue and transparency can we ensure ‘Cite and Release’ has a lasting, positive impact for communities that have been criminalized for far too long.”

Gonzales, who pledged to support SA Stands’ push for the introduction of this criminal justice reform policy when running for office, explained the details of his planned Summer roll-out. New policies on pretrial diversion, bail, cite-and-release for minor offenses, and a refusal by the D.A.’s office to prosecute possession of small amounts of drugs, including, but not limited to, marijuana, were welcomed by campaigners.

“A criminal legal system that puts on punitive hardships for a low-level offense, must be reformed,” said Erika D. advocacy fellow with MOVE Texas. “My own experience left me in a place of uncertainty and fear. Like many young people across San Antonio, I was arrested for minor marijuana possession, costing me $800 to bond out and $5,000 for an attorney to fight the case. Now, I face possible suspension of my driver’s license and am ineligible to apply for student financial aid for two years. While we have yet to see DA Joe Gonzales’ full vision of ‘Cite and Release’ in Bexar County, decriminalization measures on minor marijuana possession and cash bail reform can halt minor infractions from preventing other local residents from reaching their full potential.”

“A criminal legal system that puts on punitive hardships for a low-level offense, must be reformed”

Alejandra Lopez, a 2nd Grade teacher and representative of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel described the importance of criminal justice reform for the communities she and other educators serve:

“We teach young, working class students of color”, she explained, “students disproportionately impacted by punitive criminal justice policies, who attend under-resourced, overpoliced schools, in under-resourced, overpoliced communities. Every day we teach them that they can build the future they dream of, that they can succeed, and that their communities can flourish.”

“The carceral state is a political construction: it was created through the political decisions of the few, and it must be dismantled by the political organizing of the many.”

With other organizers, she called for a political struggle to end mass incarceration, situating cite-and-release as one component of that ongoing fight:

“The truth is that education is powerless to overcome the carceral logic that dominates American society. The truth is that we can’t keep our students safe from the overgrown system of mass incarceration in this country by education alone.

“The carceral state is a political construction: it was created through the political decisions of the few, and it must be dismantled by the political organizing of the many.”

It was a rallying cry heard by Councilman Roberto Treviño - the only member of city council in attendance at the rally. Now the conversation moves back to city council chambers, as organizers are expected to press city council members, and mayoral candidates, to pass legislation in support of these new administrative cite-and-release policies, and to end the police discretion provisions detailed in the D.A.’s announcement.

Lopez concluded: “Today we celebrate the work that all of our organizations have undertaken together to start the process by which we transform San Antonio into the city that it might be, for all this city’s children. Cite-and-release constitutes a small step towards the future that we want to see. We celebrate our city’s decision, and we call on every San Antonian to ask for more.”

For members of SA Stands, “more” means comprehensive, transformative criminal justice reform in San Antonio.

Cite-and-release is just a first step.


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