Janice Dotson-Stephens, a 61-year old Black woman, died while in custody five months after being arrested for misdemeanor charges, in which she could have been released on bond for only $30. Her family, who didn’t know that she had been in jail until she died, is suing the authorities involved, claiming that Dotson-Stephens could not have been jailed in the first place because she is mentally ill.
Dotson-Stephens was arrested on a criminal trespass charge after consistently telling the police that she wouldn’t leave the Mt. Zion elder community at San Antonio on July 17. According to a police report, she told the officers that the only place she would go is the jail. The officers did so and booked her into the Bexar County Jail.
Her bail was set to $300, and because most bail bond companies would only require at least 10 percent payment to be bailed out, she could have been released for just $30. But she died five months after her arrest. The medical examiner’s office stated that she died of natural causes.
“The question is, ‘What did you do to treat her?” said Les Sachanowicz, the attorney representing the family. “Did you give her the standard of health care that the community would have?”
Dotson-Stephens’ family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Bexar County, Bexar County Pre-trial Services, and the University Health System.
“We’re convinced that their mom was ignored to death, and what I mean by that is there is a culture of deliberate indifference for her and other inmates in the pre-trial system and at the Bexar County Jail,” Sachanowicz said.
Brigette Lott, Dotson-Stephens daughter, said her mother suffered from a long history of mental illness including severe mood disorder and schizophrenia. She argued that her mother could have been brought to a mental health institution rather than the jail after the arrest.
“It was absolutely normal that my mom would just leave and we might not hear from her for a long time,” Lott told San Antonio Express-News. “That was normal for us. We were under the assumption that it was a regular cycle. She’ll get in trouble, then she’ll get better, then we’ll start the cycle all over again.”
Meanwhile, Bexar County officials claim that they weren’t informed of the mental health issues of Dotson-Stephens and said she was given proper care during her imprisonment.
SA MLK DAY 2021
The legacy and homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived on, however, the traditional celebrations and one of the largest marches in the country was reimagined this year due to COVID concerns. San Antonio city officials and the MLK, Jr., Commission had the public’s best interest in hand and held a commemorative virtual march.
This year marked the 53rd anniversary of the first March for Justice in San Antonio. The march that San Antonio participants know and observer well was organized by the late Rev. Dr. Raymond “R.A.” Callies, Sr., a San Antonio teacher and pastor. He began the March in 1968 as a call to bring awareness to the need for basic infrastructure on the east side. His efforts have resulted in what has became one of if not the largest MLK march in the US, hosting over 300,000 participants of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and creed.
The commemorative virtual march kicked-off with a premiere of native San Antonian and accomplished filmmaker Ya’ke Smith’s Dream: Rising Up For Justice film. The film celebrated organizers, community leaders, past marches, and featured musical performances. The premiere aired on News4SA, and the city’s TVSA.
Around town caravans, neighborhood marches, and a few community block parties took place with COVID safety measures in order. Many still wanted to honor Dr. King’s legacy by celebrating with family, friends, and neighbors to carry out his message of unity and building better communities while echoing the continued push for justice and equality for all.
MLK Day 2021 was not shuttered. One march didn’t stop the show. As the opening words of the film read and reminded us… “The Dream Continues!”
City Seeks Applicants For SA: Ready To Work Advisory Board
The City of San Antonio is accepting applications for the SA: Ready to Work Advisory Board.
In November, San Antonio voters overwhelmingly approved SA: Ready to Work, a training and education initiative to assist San Antonio residents impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week, City Council approved the creation of a nine-member SA: Ready to Work Advisory Board to provide feedback on program objectives.
“During the campaign this fall, voters asked how this initiative would incorporate diverse community feedback and remain aligned with business and resident needs. The timely creation of this board establishes a transparent and inclusive process from the start as City Council considers the various policies associated with this workforce and training initiative,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “I encourage employers, participants and stakeholder organizations interested in playing a role in this important initiative to apply to serve.”
This Board will consist of representatives from four local employers with in-demand occupations, two current/previous participants in the City of San Antonio workforce development programs, one trade or labor organization, one community organization, and one workforce training provider. In additional, two City Council members appointed by the Mayor will serve as liaisons to this Advisory Board.
Applications for the Advisory Board positions can be found at the City of San Antonio’s Board and Commissions website (https://www.sanantonio.gov/Clerk/Legislative/BoardsCommissions#13319780-apply-for-a-board). Applications will be reviewed for eligibility beginning in mid-January and forward to City Council for review and potential appointment. Potential applicants are asked to consider that no appointed members of this Advisory Board may have direct relationships with entities that contract with the City for implementation of the SA Ready to Work program.
SA: Ready to Work will be tax supported through a 1/8th cent sales tax. This education and workforce program would begin serving San Antonio residents in fall 2021 and extend through December 2025. Each year of the initiative, up to 10,000 residents will be served with a total of up to 40,000 residents served over the four years.
Open Call: Calling All Artists
The City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture’s Public Art Division is seeking applicants for the 2021 Public Art Pre-Qualified List for Artists and Support Services.
The Pre-Qualified List works as a roster of emerging and experienced individuals and organizations who are pre-qualified by City Council to work on designing, building, and promoting future projects within the Department of Arts & Culture’s Public Art Program.
We are seeking professional qualifications from area, state, national, and international artists and arts organizations as well as individuals and businesses that provide support services including, but not limited to, consulting, curating, writing, project management, art history, art handling and shipping, art appraising, restoring and conserving art, art fabrication and installation, photo and video documentation, graphic and web-based design, and technical design.
· Deadline to Apply: January 18, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. CT
· Optional Virtual Informational Workshop: December 8, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. CT.
All Open Call details and application instructions can be found at http://www.sanantonio.gov/arts/open
Applying for the Pre-Qualified List allows applicants to be selected for future projects, inclusion does not guarantee selection for a public art contract.
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