Travis County told to ‘do better’ and invest in drug treatment over arrests, report says

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Authorities must take a different approach towards addressing drug use in Travis County, according to the authors of a newly released report.

Earlier this month, the four criminal justice groups involved in a study into drug possession arrests revealed some of their findings.

They found that black residents of Travis County are disproportionately harmed – despite making up just 9% of the population, black people accounted for 29.4% of drug possession arrests between June 2017 and May 2018.

Now, the four organizations involved in the study – the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas Harm Reduction Alliance, Grassroots Leadership, and the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law – have released the full report.

Of the arrests analyzed, about half arose from motor vehicle stops, typically for minor traffic violations.

The arrests were largely concentrated in areas of Austin with larger black and Latin communities.

The criminal justice groups say that authorities should invest in providing treatment to tackle addiction and prevent overdoses, instead of focusing on arrests and incarceration.

“People should not be punished for needing help, yet the reality is that people have been locked away for mental illness and substance use for generations,” David Johnson, Criminal Justice Organizer at Grassroots Leadership, said.

“Punitive policing and mass incarceration help no one. It’s time for Travis County to do better and invest in services that help those who need it the most,” he added.

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