7.15.2021
RFK Human Rights’ Sancia Dalley Offers Powerful Testimony on the Need for True Bail Reform in Texas
As Texas considers passing HB 2, a dangerous bail bill that would increase jailing of the state’s most vulnerable, RFK Human Rights is joining calls to stop this legislation.

On July 10, during the Texas Legislature’s special session, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and its coalition of partners showed up in full force to the state capitol building to testify against House Bill 2.

The proposed bill, part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s suite of priority legislation, aims to restrict pretrial release from jail and would specifically limit the ability of charitable bail funds to provide money to people who can’t afford to make bond on their own. 

As dozens of advocates, including our senior vice president Sancia Dalley, noted in their testimony, these provisions in HB 2 would most certainly balloon the jail population across the state and have a disparate impact on Black and Brown Texans.

“This unfunded mandate will force cities and counties across our state to pour more and more of their limited budgetary resources into jailing and punishment, rather than investing in social systems such as job training, affordable housing complexes, and public education—institutions that facilitate economic growth, community development, and true public safety,” Dalley said before the Select Committee on Constitutional Rights & Remedies. “This is simply terrible economics that paralyzes communities and families, especially communities and families of color.”

Texas already spends $2.4 million a day on mass incarceration, even though 60 percent of people in the state’s jails haven’t been convicted of a crime and could be released back to their families and communities to await their trials. Jailing more people and spending more money on unnecessary pretrial detention is the last thing Texans need during a projected budget shortfall, Dalley noted. Read her full testimony below.

Lead photo: Davidlohr Bueso/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Sancia Dalley’s Testimony on HB 2 Before Texas Select Committee

Good afternoon, committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to read my prepared remarks in opposition to the bill, HB 2. I am Sancia Dalley; I’m the senior vice president of investor engagement at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. I’m also proud to call Austin and the State of Texas home.

At RFK Human Rights, we regularly convene hundreds of investors to highlight the human rights issues they should consider during the investment process with a specific emphasis on racial equity and economic injustice. Our RFK Compass investors represent close to $7 trillion of assets under management, $500 billion of those assets are held here in the State of Texas.

I’m here today to express our collective concern on the cruel, unnecessary, and irreparable consequences of Governor Abbott’s HB 2 bail legislation. 

Nationally, we spend $13.6 billion every year on pretrial detention. At a time when Texas faces a projected budget shortfall of $4.6 billion at the end of Fiscal Year 2021, HB 2 represents a brand new unfunded mandate and we cannot afford to continue to lead the nation on prisons and jail spending. 

Indeed, over the past 30 years, incarceration costs have grown at a rate 5 times faster than the state’s rate of spending on elementary and secondary education. 

In addition to the human toll, this bill will have devastating economic impact for all Texans. Even one interaction with the criminal legal system can result in a 52 percent reduction in annual earnings, amounting to roughly half a million dollars of lost income over an individual’s lifetime. Our country already loses $370 billion annually to mass incarceration, and Texas is no exception. 

Over 60 percent of people in Texas’ jails are awaiting trial and sentencing, costing taxpayers $2.4 million per day to house.

This is simply terrible economics that paralyzes communities and families, especially communities and families of color.

This unfunded mandate will force cities and counties across our state to pour more and more of their limited budgetary resources into jailing and punishment, rather than investing in social systems such as job training, affordable housing complexes, and public education—institutions that facilitate economic growth, community development, and true public safety. 

Over the years at RFK Human Rights, we have worked with and funded dozens of charitable bail funds to release many people from the harms of pretrial detention, including a $1 million effort at the height of the pandemic. Many of these bail funds exist here in Texas.

Charitable bail efforts provide a meaningful safety valve for reuniting countless families and keeping communities safe and whole. Criminalizing and capping charitable bail activity will have far-reaching, unintended consequences and prevent countless people from safely reconnecting with their communities.

We need your leadership to stop HB 2 from being cemented into law and wasting the precious limited resources of our State. 

Now is not the time to incarcerate more Texans! Now is the time for us to rebuild our lives and communities together. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.