106 W Commerce Spotlight: Community Design Advocates, Jason Hernandez

Over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting each one of the Community Design Advocates, whose goal it is to broaden and deepen this project’s connection and responsiveness to the various communities it serves. Each story will detail this important work to better understand why they are involved in this project, what they hope the messages they’re hearing will mean for the site and to get to know them all a little better. This week we highlight Jason Hernandez.

To follow read our original story on this series, click here.

Jason Hernandez


Interview Questions 

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background, what were you doing prior to joining Trinity Park Conservancy?

A. I am a criminal justice reform advocate and an advocate to end mass incarceration. I work to make our criminal justice system more fair and equitable.

Q. What sparked your interest in getting involved with the Conservancy?

A. I was directly impacted by mass incarceration as was my entire family and community. I was in prison for nearly 20 years. I experienced first hand the trauma jails and prisons can inflict on a person. I think what the Trinity Park Conservancy is doing is transformational on so many levels and can be a blueprint for other cities on what can be done with their old prisons and jails and even one’s that are still used.

Q. What’s your favorite way to enjoy the Trinity River? What are some of your favorite activities?

A. I like going to Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and standing over the river and watching it flow…it is very calming and it allows me to reflect and think of ways to move forward with my life.

106 W Commerce Interview Questions 

Q. What does 106 W Commerce mean to you? What would you like the building to represent in the future?

A. I would love to see 106 W. Commerce become a place of education and healing for not just those that have been impacted by that jail or from the justice system but a place for all to come and be educated and heal regardless of what they have been through.

Q. What does design justice mean to you? How can the Conservancy utilize design justice practices with 106 W Commerce? 

A. To me it means involving those who have been directly impacted or indirectly impacted by systems that have been in that place. It could apply to criminal justice, lgbtq community, food injustices, immigration and or racial. I think you utilize design justice in thinking about as many of these groups as you can.

Q. How has activism or advocacy influenced your work or your personal life?

A. I would like to say my entire life revolves around advocacy though I focus more on criminal justice; it has made me aware of how other areas are all interconnected such as our education system, banking systems, housing systems, food systems, etc. It makes me think about decisions and choices I make to assure that whatever I am doing is to better the criminal justice system and it doesn’t make one of these other areas worse.

Q. How would you encourage others to challenge current systems of injustice?

A. You know I tell people you can’t change your city or the world by thinking it can be done on a 9-5 basis. It’s something you are doing constantly, 24 hours a day. You have to be just as passionate and committed to your cause and change as much as those who initiated those systems you seek to unravel and breakdown.

Q. What are some barriers after release some people don’t consider or even think about?

A. That people don’t want you around their kids. You can’t even donate blood or sell your plasma for a period up to 12-18 months. Businesses won’t hire you, and could actually care less about your actual charge and are more fearful of a person because of their incarceration.

Q. What kind of impact do you hope the future of building will have on the City and on Harold Simmons Park?

A. It will educate, motivate and inspire people to want to do something in their neighborhoods, communities, cities and society as a whole. It will break down those stereotypes that currently exist with those incarcerated and formerly incarcerated and that they shouldn’t be afraid of us but more willing to help us and change what happens in our prison systems and jail.

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