Texas Will No Longer Send People to Jail for Violating Strict Social Distancing

Gov. Greg Abbott made the change after a Dallas salon owner was jailed for reopening her salon.


A Dallas woman who received jail time for reopening her salon in defiance of state and local stay-at-home orders will be released, following Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to soften the punishments for violating his COVID-19 restrictions.

Incarceration is no longer on the table for Texans who do not abide by social distancing rules.

"Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen," Abbott, a Republican, said in a press release Thursday. "That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order."

After closing her doors on March 22, Shelley Luther, owner of Salon à la Mode, resumed business on April 24, publicly tearing up a cease and desist letter. She told District Judge Eric Moyé on Tuesday afternoon that she did so out of desperation because she was not able to feed her children.

"Your actions were selfish, putting your own interests ahead of the community in which you live," said Moyé, who told Luther she could pay a fine in lieu of incarceration if she issued an apology and agreed to shutter her salon. "A society cannot function where one's own beliefs in a concept of liberty permits you to flaunt your disdain for the rulings of duly elected officials," he added.

"Judge, I would like to say that I have much respect for this court and laws, and that I've never been in this position before, and it's not someplace that I want to be," said a masked Luther, speaking into a telephone. "But I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I'm selfish. Because feeding my kids is not selfish."

Moyé sentenced her to a seven-day jail term and ordered that she pay at least $3,500 in fines. The move prompted immediate backlash, and Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick paid her outlandish fees.

"I find it outrageous and out of touch that during this national pandemic, a judge, in a county that actually released hardened criminals for fear of contracting COVID-19, would jail a mother for operating her hair salon in an attempt to put food on her family's table," wrote Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement.

Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata, who were arrested in Laredo, Texas, for providing cosmetology services from their homes, will also be absolved of any further jail time. Both women were facing 180 days in jail and $1,000 fines after undercover cops posing as customers busted them last week.

Texas salons will be allowed to reopen on Friday.