Hays County activists seek reinvestment of policing funds, call a rally for action

Mano Amiga will host a call for action at the Hays County Historic Courthouse at 3 p.m. June 6. (Christopher Neely)
Mano Amiga will host a call for action at the Hays County Historic Courthouse at 3 p.m. June 6. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Mano Amiga will host a call for action at the Hays County Historic Courthouse at 3 p.m. June 6. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

As protests around the world spark like wildfire, with participants demanding justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others who have died in police custody, crowds have been calling to defund police departments around the country. Mano Amiga, a local grassroots organization in Hays County pushing for criminal justice reform, seeks to open a dialogue and call for action about how to better invest tax dollars allocated to law enforcement.

“Echoing these calls across the country to defund the police, what we’re saying is that we should look at reinvesting the [more than] $51 million devoted to law enforcement in Hays County—to look at ... cost-effective, prudent programs and initiatives that actually bring bigger justice to the residents of Hays County,” Mano Amiga co-founder Jordan Buckley said.

The grassroots organization seeks to begin a conversation and reflect on how to better allocate law enforcement funds on community programs. In fiscal year 2019-20, the county adopted a budget of $383 million, 18.58% higher than the year before, to focus on criminal justice and public safety, according to county documents.

In 2018, the county paid $4.3 million to outsource inmates to other Texas counties, up 6,895% from 2014, according to a Community Impact Newspaper report. Mano Amiga is urging the Hays County Commissioners Court to reinvest the over $4 million spent in outsourcing inmates and the budget devoted to law enforcement to fund restorative programs.

Multiple programs that could be adopted at a county level, such as a law enforcement assisted division, or LEAD, program, a public defender’s office and a pretrial services office, will be at the center of the conversation during Mano Amiga's rally 3 p.m. June 6 at the Hays County Historic Courthouse calling for action to reinvest law enforcement funds.


The LEAD program would be for higher-level offenses and would address the root cause of criminal offense through mental health care, treatment for drug abuse, housing, job training and placement.

On the heels of endless discussions without formal resolutions from the Hays County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee to come to a consensus on a cite-and-divert policy, establishing a public defender's office to provide legal representation to indigent defendants or a pretrial services office that would, in some instances, help defendants be released as they are in pretrial status instead of awaiting trial in jail, the grassroots organization will be taking their plea for reinvesting in community programs to the streets.

As of June 4, more than 400 Hays County residents have confirmed their support for the event and have marked their interest in going or confirmed their attendance on Facebook.

Mano Amiga, which played a key role in pushing for the first cite-and-release ordinance in the city of San Marcos and in Texas, is now calling for action to reinvest county funds, and people are listening.

Other policies that Mano Amiga has been pushing for include cite-and-divert. This program would be similar to cite-and-release in that individuals would get cited for low-level offenses, but different in that individuals would be diverted from the court system to the district attorney's office to meet with a prosecutor. If the individual meets the requirements, the DA would then decide what diversion program the individual is required to complete to avoid a criminal record.

Cite-and-divert would be “beneficial to the community because it diverts them out of the system altogether,” according to Anita Gupta, a staff attorney at Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Gupta added that under the current cite-and-release model going through the court system can often end up subject to "high fines and fees, which are very cost[-prohibitive] for low-income folks and end up disproportionately harming vulnerable communities, like communities of color.”

On June 17, the criminal justice coordinating committee will be meeting to continue discussion on criminal justice reforms.

Editor's note: The headline and content of this story have been updated since the original post.
By Evelin Garcia
Evelin Garcia covers local government, education, business and development as the reporter of Community Impact Newspaper's San Marcos/Buda/Kyle edition. Evelin is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in international studies.


MOST RECENT

In the last year, Whataburger launched a new, modern restaurant design and began offering curbside and delivery services for the first time amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the release. (Courtesy Elizabeth James for Whataburger)
Whataburger to celebrate 70th anniversary, unveil food truck, expand into 3 states

Nine more new Whataburger locations are planned by year's end, and 35 new restaurants are proposed for 2021.

The U.S. Census Bureau will halt its counting operation a month earlier than expected. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
U.S. Census Bureau to halt counting operation a month earlier than expected

The self-response deadline has moved up to Sept. 30.

The wine lounge is located at 322 Cheatham St., San Marcos. (Courtesy Patio Dolcetto)
Patio Dolcetto wine bar to reopen on Cheatham Street in San Marcos

The wine lounge will reopen its doors at 322 Cheatham St., San Marcos, on Aug. 19.

Hays County reported one additional death Aug. 3. (Community Impact staff)
Hays County adds 26 new cases of COVID-19, one death over the weekend

Between Aug.1-3, the Hays County Local Health Department reported 26 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 4,893.

D-BAT, an indoor baseball and softball training facility, opened June 26 in Cedar Park. (Courtesy D-BAT)
Business updates from Cedar Park, Leander; Fat City pop-up to open in Austin: News from Central Texas

Read the most recent business and community news from the Austin area.

Texas sales tax
Report: With boost in e-commerce, Texas sales tax receipts increased 4.3% in July

The loss of extra unemployment support could send numbers back down, however.

Hays County’s active COVID-19 case count drops by 35 with 53 additional recoveries.
Hays County’s active COVID-19 case count drops by 35; 53 additional recoveries July 31

The Hays County Local Health Department reported 18 new cases of the coronavirus July 31, bringing the total to 4,315.

The Texas State Teachers Association has asked the state to prohibit in-person teaching until at least Sept. 8. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas State Teachers Association demands TEA prohibit in-person classes until Sept. 8

The statement was released after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton earlier this week said that local districts have the sole authority to close schools due to the ongoing pandemic.

Local businesses in Hays County will be able to access applications for the Emergency Cash Assistance Program starting Aug. 3. (Evelin Garcia/ Community Impact Newspaper)
Hays County launches $600K small business assistance program

Hays County has launched the Emergency Cash Assistance Program grant fund to aid small businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis.