73 words, that's all that 61-year-old Janice Dotson-Stephens
was afforded to announce her death in a San Antonio online publication. Dotson-Stephens, a homeless woman, passed away in the Bexar County Jail in December last year after having been in their custody since July of 2018. Janice was unable to pay the bond to earn her release which amounted to less than $50 and so she spent her last 5 months behind bars for nothing more than being poor and living on the streets. Four months later, another homeless person, Jack Ule, 63 suffered the same fate at the same county jail.
Jack Ule, who suffered from mental health issues, was also unable to make a minimum payment on his $500 bond to gain his release.
Their tragic fates and crimes are eerily similar. Both were arrested on trespassing charges and then passed away in police custody because they were unable to earn their freedom.
Their deaths have prompted the public to question whether it's right to arrest people for simply being homeless in the first place and then compound their problems with a bond that they have no way of ever paying — something that could ostensibly keep them locked up. Locking up nonviolent, homeless offenders is not only cruel but it's a waste of government resources.
A local judge, Nelson Wolff, has been so disturbed by the recent deaths and the injustice of arresting the homeless simply for being homeless, that he has urged Bexar County to stop the practice. Harris County, TX has already stopped. And recently the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over several western states, ruled that cities cannot punish the homeless simply for sleeping outside. The trend is growing, and it seems that Bexar County needs to get with the program. Please sign the petition. Ask Bexar County to stop locking up the homeless and using cash bail to keep them prisoner.