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You have the right to a phone call

But it won’t help you much if you don’t know what number to call.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia

Sheriff Adrian Garcia

[Harris County Sheriff’s] Deputies on Wednesday outlined a pilot program they hope will help lower the jail population by letting detainees copy five numbers out of their phone before it is sealed in a bag with the rest of their valuables.

“Hopefully they’ll make a call to a family member or a friend and get a bonding company and get bailed out,” said Deputy Chief Fred Brown. “This will be a positive, as far as getting people out on bond.”

When a person is arrested and taken to the jail, the arresting officer takes that person’s purse or wallet, jewelry and other personal belongings, including their phone, and seals it in a property bag.

The bag is given to the property department at the jail and is held until the person is released.

To get access to the phone, the bag has to be retrieved and unsealed. Then to put it back in the property room, all of the paperwork has to be redone.

The solution, then, is to let the detainees write five numbers on their paperwork before the phone is put in the bag.

“It’s simple,” Brown said.

He said the simple fix is part of a strategy of many small steps to make the system work better in the long run. He noted that inmates who are able to find someone to bail them out cost the county less.

The root problem here is that in this day of smartphone contacts, no one actually knows any phone numbers any more. Why should they, when their phone remembers them for them? I’m old school enough to have a bunch of numbers that are critical to me memorized, but anyone I’ve gotten digits from in the last few years is just another entry in my address book. This proposal is such a forehead-slappingly good idea it’s amazing no one had thought of it before. If it helps even a few people get bailed out, it’s well worth it. Kudos to whoever came up with it. Hair Balls has more.

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