Progressive Texas candidates for the 2020 election spoke to students Thursday at the 21st Street Co-op about their plans for criminal justice reform.
The Criminal Justice Candidate Forum, hosted by the UT chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America, heard speeches by José Garza, Travis County District Attorney candidate, Dominic Selvera, Travis County Attorney candidate and Heidi Sloan, Texas congressional candidate.
UT YDSA member Evan Hassan said this event introduces students to candidates with progressive interests.
“If these students take the time to listen to their policies, they will find that they agree with them,” chemistry sophomore Hassan said. “They will also see these candidates want the same changes that we want.”
The candidates addressed topics such as the decriminalization of marijuana, ending cash bail and the prosecution of sexual assault.
“We have people who are able to change the system and just refuse to because they haven’t had a friend or a loved one in that situation,” said Garza, who was endorsed by presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday. “So for me, these issues that I’m running on, the reason I do what I do, is because it has affected me, it’s affected my family.”
All candidates said they are running because they have each struggled with the current criminal justice system.
“One of the things that we all have in common (as candidates) is that through our work, through our personal lives, we’ve experienced what it’s like to be on the receiving end of some of these horrible policies,” Selvera said. “Whether it’s economic injustice, health care injustice, housing injustice. These issues affect us and that’s why we’re all fighting.”
Garza said the current criminal justice system heavily disadvantages the working class, people of color and women. He told students he loves working with the fellow candidates to advocate for change in the system.
“It has been so powerful to see the collective movement that we have all been building together,” Garza said. “This county, this community is on the verge of seismic change. And all of us are at the forefront of change.”
Selvera said he wants to start a new conversation on progressive criminal justice policies. He told students they have the power to change this system and that the candidates are there to support them.
“We can’t rely on the older generations to take care of us or manage our problems, so we have to vote,” Hassan said. “We should be taking an active role in politics. We should be taking an active role in shaping our future, because otherwise we’re leaving it up to people who may not have our best interests at heart.”
Sloan said she is running because she has seen the power of people who are directly affected by the current criminal justice system. She said she wants to continue to fight for those affected.
“Our policies come from … organizers across the country, organizers right here in Austin,” Sloan said. “It comes from our lived experience standing shoulder to shoulder with people who are fighting for their lives.”