Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced on Thursday that he would eliminate jail sentences for violators of lockdown orders.
“Throwing Texans in jail whose [businesses] shut down through no fault of their own is wrong,” Abbot wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Abbot’s announcement followed a Texas judge’s decision to jail a Dallas hair salon owner for seven days, after the owner opened her salon in defiance of lockdown orders.
“Jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option,” Abbot said on 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 hair salon owner, Shelley Luther, was told she could avoid a jail sentence if she apologized and admitted that her decision to reopen was “selfish.”
“I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I’m selfish because feeding my kids is not selfish,” Luther told the judge. “I have hairstylists that are going hungry because they would rather feed their kids. So sir, 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.”
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