I missed this amid all the other news that’s been coming out of the state’s special legislative session, but last week Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Bonton Farms Act into law. Named for the South Dallas urban farm, which feeds people in one of southern Dallas’ many food deserts and helps employ formerly incarcerated men and women, the act effectively wipes out many of the fines and fees that a person may have accrued before they were incarcerated.
The idea is that a formerly incarcerated person, after serving their sentence, should be able to re-enter the wider world. They need a driver’s license, somewhere to live, a job—hard enough to find for anyone who’s been incarcerated, and even harder if they have unpaid fines. It’s something that Daron Babcock, the founder of Bonton Farms, saw play out in person, according to a press release from the farm:
After moving to Bonton and establishing Bonton Farms, Babcock soon realized that many of his employees faced fines from unpaid Class C misdemeanors or failing to make a court appearance while incarcerated. He began seeking solutions and secured a win with HB 569.
“While the bill references Bonton, we are just one example of neighborhoods being destroyed by racist inequities in this state. Our communities, city and state are better off and safer when everyone has a chance to flourish. The Bonton Farms Act will return hope to thousands,” said Babcock.
The bill’s sponsors included state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, and state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. The Bonton Farms Act wasn’t approved in the 86th Legislative session that wrapped up in May, but it picked up momentum and bipartisan support heading into the special session, according to that press release. It’s rare that bipartisan legislation addressing a real issue comes out of Austin, so take a moment to savor this one.