According to a recent report, thousands of people across Texas were arrested in 2019 for offenses that could have been prosecuted instead.
A report released by the nonprofit Texas Appleseed in December looks at arrests made that year in eight Texas jurisdictions, including five in North Texas. The researchers found more than 15,000 people across the state arrested for minor offenses that could potentially merit punishment.
“When we say unnecessarily, this means that technically, they could legally have been issued subpoenas and subpoenas to have their charges heard at a later date, rather than being physically placed in a detention center for detention,” said Jennifer Carreon, director Texas Appleseed Criminal Justice Project.
The bulk of the arrests were for class C misdemeanors, which include drunkenness or disorderly conduct in public, as well as other offenses including petty theft, possession of marijuana, and driving with an invalid license. The data does not include people arrested on several higher charges and warrants in addition to class C crimes.
Few class C misdemeanors carry a prison sentence under state law, but officers have broad authority to make arrests and are not required to explain why they are arresting someone for a prosecutable offense. A bill that could have changed but did not pass in the 2019 Legislative Assembly.
The report recommends an end to unwarranted arrests for Class C offenses with limited exceptions, and the development and implementation of a nationwide citation and exemption policy that all jurisdictions can adopt.
“The data show us that [with] the justice system that is currently burdening our prisons that are bursting at the seams, there are ways to lighten this system to help our communities and make everyone feel more secure by making sure resources and time are allocated efficiently,” Carreon. said.
The report found stark differences between regions. In Austin, which had a citation and publication policy in 2019, only 4% of all arrests were potentially citable, according to the data.
In contrast, the report states that Dallas and Fort Worth had over 20% of the arrests that could be processed with a link. Dallas and Tarrant Counties did not have an official citation and release policy at the time, although one has since been adopted, suggesting that such reforms may be successful in diverting people from prison.
A Dallas Police Department spokesman said the department could not comment on the situation because it did not have enough information based on the report’s findings. The Fort Worth Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report also found racial differences in arrests for marijuana possession and driving with an invalid license. Although blacks make up about 21% of the population in eight jurisdictions, they account for nearly 39% of arrests to be cited.
Carreón said the high number of citable arrests has a profound effect on communities, increasing the likelihood of people being re-arrested, as well as wasting taxpayer money and law enforcement resources to register and hold arrestees accountable.
“Every flaw, every unintended consequence, every collateral damage that exists or is associated with the use of citable arrests has a disproportionate impact on communities of color,” Carreon said.
Any advice? Write to Pablo Araus Peña at [email protected]
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