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Travis County District Attorney candidates talk about the war on drugs

Three groups held a forum to educate the community on candidates running for Travis County District Attorney.

AUSTIN, Texas — Grassroots LeadershipTexas Criminal Justice Coalition and Texas Harm Reduction Alliance held a forum Sunday to educate the community on candidates running for Travis County District Attorney and present questions to them. 

The forum specifically addressed the role prosecutors play in promoting public health approaches to drug use, harm reduction and pre-arrest diversion programs. 

District Attorney Margaret Moore, Workers Defense co-director Jose Garza and attorney Erin Martinson were all in attendance.

Recently, these groups along with the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law analyzed low-level drug arrests in 2017 and 2018. Their data showed even though African Americans make up 8.9% of the county's population, they account for 29.4% of drug possession arrests. During the forum, they asked the candidates how they would change that. 

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"On day one, we will end the prosecution of low-level drug offenses here in Travis County," said Jose Garza."We will end the prosecution of possession and sell of a gram or less." 

Candidate Erin Martinson said that's not enough. 

"I am really focusing on personal use and what can be more than a gram quite frankly," explained Martinson.

The candidates also talked about how to hold police accountable for discrimination now that the city is investigating some of APD's top officers for making racist remarks. 

"Our current District Attorney doesn't take officer-involved cases to the grand jury," said Martinson. "Everything is done apart from the grand jury, that is showing favoritism and they all need to go to the grand jury." 

Incumbent Margaret Moore said she is already working directly with the police to make a change. 

"We have had direct conversations with Chief Manley and one of the things they are committed to doing is look at the patterns where this is taking place so they can directly target areas where we are seeing an impact in arrest in traffic stops," Moore said.

WATCH: Travis County District Attorney candidates talk about the war on drugs

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