New Cite & Release Policy Seeks to Reduce Criminalization of Residents, District Attorney Must Release Text, Say Advocates with SA Stands
Coalition of 26 Local Advocacy Groups Urge Pairing of Decriminalization with Discretion in Issuing Citations and Transparency in Implementation
SAN ANTONIO — Today, District Attorney Joe Gonzales announced that his office will implement “Cite and Release,” a new administrative policy that seeks to reduce arrests, in Bexar County. While the full policy text was not released, DA Gonzales wrote in the San Antonio Express-News that the cite and release policy will direct law enforcement officers to use their discretion to issue citations for low-level, non-violent offenses. It will allow local police to focus resources on public safety while allowing residents charged with minor transgressions to qualify for a citation and return to their families and communities.
The SA Stands campaign, which is comprised of twenty-six advocacy organizations from San Antonio, has been advocating for the passage of cite and release for the past six months.
View: Cite and Release: Step by Step (Graphic and FAQ)
“A criminal legal system that puts on punitive hardships for a low-level offense, must be reformed,” said Erika D. advocacy fellow with MOVE Texas. “My own experience left me in a place of uncertainty and fear. Like many young people across San Antonio, I was arrested for minor marijuana possession, costing me $800 to bond out and $5,000 for an attorney to fight the case. Now, I face possible suspension of my driver’s license and am ineligible to apply for student financial aid for two years. While we have yet to see DA Joe Gonzales’ full vision of ‘Cite and Release’ in Bexar County, decriminalization measures on minor marijuana possession and cash bail reform can halt minor infractions from preventing other local residents from reaching their full potential.”
While full details of the local program have not been released, we know that Bexar County’s “Cite & Release” program will allow individuals charged with certain misdemeanors — including possession of marijuana, driving with an invalid license, and minor theft — to qualify for a citation and the opportunity to complete a diversion program and avoid arrest. If individuals successfully complete their assigned program, the low-level offense will not appear on their record and will not disenfranchise them from current or future opportunities for employment, housing, and health care.
“After months of organizing, the San Antonio community is optimistic for the potential of ‘Cite and Release’ to reduce the number of our neighbors facing jail time or a mark on their record for minor infractions,” said Carolina Canizales, Texas Campaign Strategist at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “The ultimate success of this policy relies on officers using their discretion and choosing citations over arrests for low-level offenses. We urge Bexar County law enforcement to work with the community on this issue. We ask for transparency and need SAPD and the DA’s office to release the full policy, hear community feedback, record and share data from the implementation of this program, and continually review practices and procedures. Only with this open dialogue and transparency can we ensure ‘Cite and Release’ has a lasting, positive impact for communities that have been criminalized for far too long.”
“‘Cite and Release’ represents an important first step in the struggle to create a San Antonio that treats people with dignity and respect,” said Alejandra Lopez, a teacher with the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. “As public school educators we recognize that far too many of our students’ lives have been negatively impacted by a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets our communities of color. Let us continue down the path of fighting for the future our young people deserve.”
SA Stands will continue to work to represent the community in conversations with the DA’s office and Bexar law enforcement for more accountability and transparency about the implementation of the program.
SA Stands is a strong collaborative in the city of San Antonio and Bexar County that is committed to the protection, safety, dignity, inclusion, and freedom of all immigrants, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or special ability. Through organized campaigns, advocacy efforts, community education, and direct action, SA Stands will mobilize against any laws and efforts that criminalize, incarcerate, deport and divide our communities. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/SAStands/.