Travis County Inmates Trapped by Judges’ Bail During Pandemic

Red Aid supports political prisoners and those who could become political prisoners, we also organize around legal and prison issues. Over the past few weeks, coronavirus cases have been on the rise at Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle, Texas.

Concerning reports have emerged from incarcerated people and criminal defense lawyers that they are no longer receiving hot meals. Those who have contracted COVID while incarcerated lack of access to medical care, at most receiving over the counter pain medicine like Advil. Meanwhile, the jail population is only increasing as courts remain closed while people continue to get arrested and detained.

The number of cases is unclear, with Travis County underreporting, many criminal defense attorneys have cited there to be at least 100 cases in the jail. Many news reports applaud the Sheriff and jail system for preventing the spread of coronavirus “so far” to divert attention from the current conditions that have clearly only worsened in recent weeks.

Almost a year ago when the pandemic began, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order demanding that people accused of violent crimes not be released without paying bail. Done in the name of “public safety,” this order has only punished poor people accused of crimes. Those who can afford to pay bail accused of the same crimes escape being trapped in the breeding grounds of the virus while the poor remain detained. Jail populations across Texas have exploded in the last year, leading to overcrowding in the midst of the pandemic. Travis County jail populations are slowly climbing to pre-pandemic levels.

The pandemic is heightening the existing cruelty of jails, prisons, and the criminal “justice” system. As courts remain closed with no end in sight, judges hold the keys to many peoples’ freedom, who set high bail for people accused and have not reviewed cases while people await trial. People risk death and indefinite detention without any “due process.” The most oppressed in society in the United States bear the greatest suffering in return.

As we have seen most recently in St. Louis, many prisoners are taking matters into their own hands and are demanding change against the poor conditions exacerbated by the pandemic. Massive levels of incarceration in the United States with the deepening crisis of US imperialism shows that the only way to struggle against this pandemic is to fight against the capitalist system as a whole.

In working with family members of those currently detained at the Travis County Correctional Complex, we are amplifying their calls for justice to bring attention to these terrible conditions. We are specifically demanding that Travis County judges who have the ability to reduce the jail population begin reviewing cases and release inmates to stop their indefinite detention and lack of due process.

Below is a script you can use to call and email the following Travis County judges to review the cases of those detained and begin releasing those accused of crimes. We encourage you to tag them on social media to tell them being poor is not a crime!

Hello,

I am calling with concerns about the rise of coronavirus cases among inmates at Travis County. Many people who have yet to be indicted are being held indefinitely without hot food or proper medical care as coronavirus spreads rapidly throughout the Travis County Correctional Complex.

The bail system punishes the poor and oppressed by setting absurdly high bonds that are impossible for low-income defendants and their families to pay while those who can afford it pay their way out.

Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order has been in place for almost a year– it is a vague order that has led to the growth of jail populations throughout Texas. Poor defendants risk death despite ever having their day in court during this pandemic.

As a judge, I am asking you to review these cases, lower the bond for people accused, and allow for the release of people for public health and public safety. Your duty to protect the community includes those in jail too. 

Courts to contact:

147th Criminal District Court
Cliff Brown: (512) 854-9311

167th Criminal District Court
Dayna Blazey: (512) 854-9310
Twitter: @dlblazey

299th Criminal District Court
Karen Sage: (512) 854-9442
Facebook: @judgekarensage

331st Criminal District Court
Chantal Eldridge: (512) 854-9443
Facebook: @voteforchantal

390th Criminal District Court
Julie Kocurek: (512) 854-4885
Facebook: @voteforjudgejulie

403rd Criminal District Court
Brenda Kennedy: (512) 854-9808

427th Criminal District Court
Tamara Needles: (512) 854-3663
Facebook: @needlesforjudge
Twitter: @needlesforjudge

450th Criminal District Court
Brad Urrutia: (512) 854-2441
Twitter: @bgurrutia
Facebook: @JudgeBradUrrutia

460th Criminal District Court
Selena Alvarenga: (512) 854-6150
Twitter: @selenaforjudge
Facebook: @selenaforjudge

County Court #3
John Lipscombe: (512) 854-9243
Facebook: John Lipscombe
Twitter: @JohnLipsombe

County Court #4
Dimple Malhorta: (512) 854-9896
Facebook: @JudgeDimpleMalhorta
Twitter: @JudgeDimple

County Court #5
Nancy Hohengarten: (512) 854-9676

County Court #6
Brandy Mueller: (512) 854-9677
Twitter: @C6ProjectEngage

County Court #7
Elisabeth A. Earle: (512) 854-9679
Twitter: @ElizabethEarle

County Court #8
Carlos H. Barrera: (512) 854-7180

County Court #9
Kim Williams: (512) 854-8460
Facebook: @electkimwilliams