The organization Grassroots Leadership obtained Travis County Jail records for the year 2015. In a report, released Thursday, they say African-Americans spend longer times in jail compared to their white counterparts.
“It's not surprising because we all know African-Americans specifically are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, and we are charged more harshly,” said Latresse Cook, with the M.E.L.J Justice Center.
For example, according to the data, a black person charged with a DWI spends almost 15 days in jail, compared to a little over 5 for a white person on average. “Unfortunately the numbers aren't surprising but they're very important,” said Greg Casar, Austin City Council member.
Casar already has some plans to address this.
“I myself will be bringing items forward to the city council,” said Casar.
“When Grassroots presented this to me anecdotally, I said surely that can't be true, because Travis County, unlike jurisdictions I've worked in previously in Los Angeles and Washington D.C., is a progressive county,” said Elizabeth Henneke, Partner at Elizabeth Henneke Law.
“The assertion that the jail controls who walks in the door is a false assertion, the assertion that we control who leaves is a false assertion,” said Major West Priddy, Travis County Sheriff’s Office.
Priddy says the corrections officers just are doing their jobs and he is proud of how inmates are treated, however, he doesn't deny there are problems out there. “We don't argue the fact there may be social injustices out there and injustices in the criminal justice system itself,” said Priddy.
Right now, these organizations and officials are just hoping everyone can come together and create solutions, soon. “Everyone who hits this system, from pre-trial, to magistrates, to council, and elected officials, need to not just read the report ,but then literally figure out what to do about it,” said Fatima Mann, founder of Counter Balance ATX.