SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Greg Abbott is ensuring Texans can’t be jailed for violation of the state’s Stay Home Order by modifying the order to remove confinement as a punishment.
Abbott sent a statement Thursday saying in part, “throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the jailing of Shelley Luther, a Dallas salon owner who was ordered to spend a week in jail by a Dallas Judge after continuing to operate her business despite a temporary restraining order prohibiting her from doing so.
“That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order. This order is retroactive to April 2nd, supersedes local orders and if correctly applied should free Shelley Luther,” Abbott said.
In a hearing Tuesday, Luther was given an option by District Judge Eric Moyé to apologize and promise not to reopen Salon A la Mode and he would “consider levying only a fine,” Dallas Morning News reported. Luther responded saying "feeding my kids is not selfish. If you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon.”
“I applaud Gov. Abbott’s decision to ensure that penalties for violating public health orders are reasonable and not excessive. All Texans are trying to get through this crisis together and no one should be put in jail unnecessarily,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Abbott continued saying the order modification “may also ensure that other Texans like Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata who were arrested in Laredo, should not be subject to confinement. As some county judges advocate for releasing hardened criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is absurd to have these business owners take their place.”
“The cases of salon owner, Shelley Luther, and Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata in Laredo are prime examples. No Texan should face jail time for resisting an order that temporarily closes a lawful business in an attempt to feed their families," Paxton said.
Bexar County is one of the counties in Texas that chose to institute a plan to release nonviolent offenders from the jail during the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.