Dallas' Cite-and-release Marijuana Program Doesn't Go Far Enough

Last month, the Dallas County district attorney charged more than 400 individuals with possession of less than two ounces of marijuana each. That means well over 400 people could have remained in the community but were instead arrested and put into jail. Some surely lost jobs, others surely had families that suffered, all because our local leaders couldn't agree to implement a common-sense cite-and-release program for marijuana possession that was approved in April. County commissioners finally passed a cite-and-release program in mid-October, but the delay was simply unacceptable.Earlier this year, Dallas City Council took an important step toward making change in our criminal justice system by voting in favor of a cite-and-release policy for marijuana offenses. While far from perfect, that policy requires police officers to give a ticket to those found with less than four ounces of marijuana, rather than take them to jail.Given the devastating effects that occur when a person has to spend even a short time in jail, this is a critical reform. People in Dallas charged with low-level offenses are often too poor to pay their cash bail, so they sit in jail for days or even weeks before they are even convicted of a crime. They often lose their jobs and, unable to work, many cannot make car or home payments. They lose key possessions. For those who care for children, their absence creates a void that cannot be filled. And for those undocumented people in our community, the repercussions are life-altering. Once booked into jail, they are at risk of deportation.  Continue reading...

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