This is clearly the correct course of action.
In a surprise move on Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he would remove jail time as a penalty for violating the stay-at-home orders. He has made this retroactive to April 2 and it supersedes local orders.
He announced the decision on Twitter:
Throwing Texans in jail whose biz's shut down through no fault of their own is wrong.
I am eliminating jail for violating an order, retroactive to April 2, superseding local orders.
Criminals shouldn’t be released to prevent COVID-19 just to put business owners in their place.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 7, 2020
The move comes after a Dallas salon owner, Shelley Luther, gained national attention for defying the lockdown and opening up her beauty salon so that she and her employees can earn a living. Luther had followed public health guidelines on providing masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, as well as implementing rigorous cleaning and using social distancing markers on the floor to keep her customers and employees as safe as possible.
When she went to court, the judge told Luther that he would be lenient if she apologized and admitted that she was wrong in her civil disobedience. The judge called her “selfish” for wanting to open up her business. Luther responded that she was not “selfish” for wanting to feed her children and have her employees do the same. She then was handed a harsh sentence of $7000 and 7 days in jail for refusing to bow to the authorities.
On Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that he’d pay her $7,000 fine and confine himself to house arrest in her place so that she could “go back to work and feed her kids.”
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Abbott ordered Luther’s release stating that jail should “always be the last available option” in enforcing executive orders regarding the pandemic.
“As I have made clear through prior pronouncements, jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option,” Abbott said in a statement Wednesday. “Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother.”
“The defiance of the Court’s Order was open, flagrant and intentional,” Judge Eric Moyé wrote Tuesday. “The Defendants, although having been given an opportunity to do so, have expressed no contrition, remorse or regret for their contemptuous action.”
The statewide stay-at-home order expired on April 30, but restrictions in Dallas extend through May 15.
Source: The Hill
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 6, 2020
Release from JAIL ordered under request for emergency relief while Supreme Court considers Luther's petition. Response due by 4 p.m. Monday.
— Chuck Lindell (@chucklindell) May 7, 2020