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Mano Amiga voices frustrations with new commission

Letter to the Editor
Sunday, April 14, 2019

On behalf of Mano Amiga, we are encouraged to see so many local officials embracing the rising push for criminal-justice reform – but a partisan vote on Tuesday to weaken those efforts was positively shameful.

As reported by the Daily Record, our county population has risen 16% over the past four years, yet our incarceration rate has needlessly soared by a shocking 82%.

Over that period, a body called the Hays County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee was tasked with tackling the inefficiencies and injustices in our penal system, but in the words of Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, who served on the committee, those efforts “went stale.”

It seems as those who steered that committee saw a new, bigger jail as the solution, yet a growing movement in Hays County demanded better. Judge Ruben Becerra’s office created a Task Force that tapped the wisdom of regional leaders and ignited a viable pathway toward meaningful reform that reduces unnecessary incarceration.

On Tuesday, the county commission smartly opted to elevate the Judge’s Task Force to an official County Commission; however, in a despicable party-line vote, Republican commissioners eliminated two key voices as voting members.

With a 3-2 vote, Republican commissioners booted Anita Gupta, seasoned staff attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, as well as Gary Cobb, former chief prosecutor for Travis County, from their roles as voting members of county efforts to meaningfully tackle reform. Instead, Commissioner Lon Shell pushed to endow his former intern, a recent Texas State undergraduate, and himself with the voting powers he dared to strip away from these highly reputable legal experts.

The new Commission could just as easily contain 24 voting members – including Mr. Cobb & Ms. Gupta – as 22 members, and it would invaluably strengthen and legitimize the body and its work. Instead, all the Republican commissioners banded together to weaken the diversity and representation of the Commission.

Mano Amiga calls on our allies and community members of conscience to reach out to County Commissioners to ask that these important voices be placed back on the commission.

Karen Muñoz

Jordan Buckley

Mano Amiga Co-Founders