By Megan Wehring
Mano Amiga hosted a virtual town hall forum with a diverse panel of speakers on Aug. 12, promoting the city of Kyle to implement a cite and release ordinance. The neighboring city of San Marcos adopted the policy earlier this year.
Cite and release allows police officers to issue a citation instead of an arrest for low-level, nonviolent offenses. The individual receiving the citation would still be held responsible for appearing in court at a later date. Eric Martinez, policy director for Mano Amiga, said there are other requirements with issuing a cite and release.
“They must be a county resident for where they were arrested,” Martinez said. “They must not be a threat to themselves or others. They must not be publicly intoxicated. They must have no outstanding warrants and must not be charged with a more serious event.”
Kyle resident DeSyre Collier said cite and release could give families more time to organize their affairs for a long-term situation.
“Oftentimes, when Black people are arrested, immediately they are taken in and put into jail even awaiting trial,” Collier said. “So they are spending months in the cell ripped away from their families, who oftentimes don’t even know where they are immediately, and then have trouble living without them at first.”
Gladys Carrillo, founder of the Mothers4BlackLives advocacy group, said overcrowding in jails could possibly be reduced if the cite and release policy was implemented.
“In 2018 alone, Hays County paid $4.3 million to outsource inmates to other Texas counties due to overcrowding in jail,” Carrillo said. “At that time, the county averaged approximately $10,000 to $15,000 a day to outsource inmates. When we think about the long-term effect in terms of financial needs, $10,000 to $15,000 a day to house an inmate versus carrying out a warrant, it doesn’t take a lot to conclude that there are benefits to saving money.”
While the Texas Legislature passed a law in 2007 that allows a “cite and release” policy, only a few cities in Texas have adopted the policy at the local level.
Anita Gupta, staff attorney for Immigrant Legal Resource Center, highlights the goals of adopting a strong cite and release policy.
“We want to reduce racial disparities in policing, since we know that Black and brown people are the ones that are generally getting arrested for these offenses,” Gupta said. “We want to increase data transparency. We want the community to know what the police are doing. We really want to provide a mechanism for meaningful community input.”
Collier encourages the public to have an open dialogue, along with difficult conversations, with the entire community.
“We need to just have more of a community conversation so that people understand what kind of things need to be set in place in our city,” Collier said. “A lot of times no one knows what is going on unless it happens to them. Continue to start dialogue with other citizens and let them know how they can push forward things like this ordinance.”