Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

New county risk assessment system coming

We’ve been waiting.

Harris County officials on Tuesday touted their revamped strategy for deciding whether tens-of-thousands of individuals should be jailed before their criminal trials, a process that critics and a federal judge say disproportionately affects the poor who are unable to come up with the money to make bail.

On July 29, the county plans to implement the “public safety assessment,” to grade individuals arrested in Harris County each year on their risk of re-offending, committing a violent crime or failing to show up for court.

The tool is intended to recommend to judges and hearing officers that low-risk individuals – both felony and misdemeanor – be let out of jail on personal bonds. Higher-risk individuals would be required to post bail according to an established bail schedule, as well as face additional supervision such as round-the-clock monitoring or regular check-ins with probation officers.

“This is the biggest change in criminal justice reform that Harris County has ever seen,” said Kelvin Banks, the county’s director of pretrial services.

[…]

[Federal judge Lee] Rosenthal weighed in on the county’s new risk assessment tool earlier this month, writing that the new rules “do not change much.”

The system imposes a fee schedule ranging from $500 to $5,000 for misdemeanors and recommends up-front payment from most people.

“Like the old schedule … secured money bail is the standard recommendation for most categories of misdemeanor arrestees,” the judge wrote. “The approved changes are hardly different.”

Elizabeth Rossi, an attorney with Civil Rights Corps, said the risk assessment does not eliminate the use of a bail schedule, and despite its goal, will continue to ensure that those without means will be routinely jailed.

“It doesn’t solve the constitutional problem,” Rossi said.

See here and here for some background. I hope this helps, but it doesn’t sound like it moves us closer to a resolution. Maybe it will at least keep a few people out of jail who don’t need to be there. In the meantime, we wait for the appeals process to play out.

Related Posts:

32 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    If the County had agreed to make reforms, then the judge probably wouldn’t have put a 24 hour time limit on releasing defendants. 24 hours is probably too short to make a reasonable determination of a defendant’s ability to pay, but the 30% no show rate is entirely on the County and the judges for being morons who were more interested in extorting plea deals from innocent defendants that in running a justice system. My personal view is that I can live with a 30% no show rate if we aren’t keeping folks in jail longer than necessary. Besides, many of those no shows will get picked up at some point, and can be made to post actual bail, since they have proven to be unreliable.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    Ross, well if you can live with it then so be it.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    What this all sounds like is, misdemeanor criminals get their first get out of jail card free, and 30% of those people blow it. If that’s OK with everybody, then, well, OK then. It doesn’t seem fair to all the misdemeanor criminals who do pay a first time bail, though. Something about unequal treatment under the law……

  4. Ross says:

    So, Bill, I take it you would be happier to just set their bail high enough they can’t make it, and keep them locked up until they either plead guilty or go to trial? That’s the system we have now, and it’s blatantly unconstitutional(and often counterproductive in terms of the defendant being able to support their family, keep a job, even a crappy one, etc). And, like I said earlier, if the judges and the County would have worked on a compromise, the Federal judge wouldn’t have set the time limit at 24 hours. Heck, setting bail at $500 instead of $5,000 for many cases would probably ensure that most of them show up, but would have bail at a level the defendants can afford.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    @Ross,

    No, just go ahead and give the free get out of jail cards to anyone who doesn’t have a no-show on their record, but don’t charge some people just because we feel they can afford it. Also, could we consider previous convictions when talking about RoR? If a guy has xx priors, could we maybe not give that person a pass on bail for the new crime?

  6. neither here nor there says:

    Paul what percentages of people who do post bond don’t show up at court?

  7. Steve Houston says:

    I side with Ross here, not a common occurrence but he’s right. The court ruled the old system was unconstitutional and as such, it’s off the table regardless of whether it resulted in more people showing up (by virtue of staying in jail or by forcing them to cough up money). The current system is heavily flawed because those in charge keep trying to find a way around the ruling or to maintain the old ways as close as possible.

    Once they allow something better to be used, it may work better but I caution people not to dwell too heavily on results coming in so soon (especially given the powers that be have proven they will say anything or do anything to bolster their failed arguments), as the article points out, even the newest version of the system just started today so any numbers coming in are meaningless. I get the premise that 1) some people make a very handsome living from the current system, 2) some politicians (in robes or not) make a great deal in contributions from those same people, and 3) anything that allows people to go free before their trial date will result in some people not showing up but the law of the land is clear so rather than throw every possible roadblock up to insure failure, maybe a little more energy coming up with something that works is in order? Maybe?

  8. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    If only there was a model, another place, like, say, the state of New Jersey, that could be studied to find out what works when the role of bail bonds is substantially reduced.

  9. Yeah New Jersey works well. We don’t wont to jail mobsters. 🙂

    All this talk just reminds how far left this country is going. Well if it is then it is. I am going to start writing left handed.

  10. Steve,

    If you are o.k. with 30% no show then there is nothing more I can say to you. As far your continued jab at me or my brother on money it just goes to show you have nothing else to argue. We were involved in the legislative process you were not. We are not scared to put our name behind our arguments. Like us or hate us we don’t hide behind fake names.

    Neither,

    If you follow the link and listen to the story you will get your answer.

  11. Ross,

    In determining what the price is you continue to look at the wrong number. If there is a $5,000 bond then the actual cost to the defendant is probably $400. Most bonding companies would take a portion down and pay out the rest. The problem is to bail out you need a family member or friend to come and do it. A lot of family members don’t want to bond out the s.o.b. that got charged. Normally they are just fed up.

  12. Ross says:

    @Paul, whether or not family members or friends are willing to front the bail is probably irrelevant in determining whether the current system meets constitutional requirements, given the Federal judge ordered the use of the defendant’s ability to pay, not the friends and family financial status.

    @Bill, if a defendant has prior convictions, but always made his or her court settings, then there’s no reason to set their bail at an unaffordable level.

  13. Ross,

    I get it. The Judge said it was unconstitutional. I know they had good lawyers on it. I really don’t have anything else. Y’all have a good weekend.

  14. Steve Houston says:

    PK: The 30% number was BS and based on an interim process because those at the County refuse any attempts to provide a Constitutional system. The new(er) system was just put in place yesterday and while it doesn’t change much, NO valid numbers will be available for it anytime soon. What some are arguing, and not just “those darned liberals” that seem to frighten some of you so much, is that there just might possibly be a system that is Constitutional that works better than half measures. No one is arguing that the old system had no merits, they are just pointing out that it was ruled illegal so why wrap oneself around it and pout?

    Further, complaining when someone points out that there is big money involved only makes your stance seem more isolated. It’s not a “jab” or a slight to point such things out and nobody is saying you don’t earn the money you charge in fees for your very valued services. But frankly, you have a vested financial interest in this whole thing so there’s no need to wear a chip on your shoulder every time it’s brought up. And of course you participated in the legislative process, just as I would expect everyone making a sizable income from the field, but isn’t it fair to say that politicians are much more apt to listen to folks from an industry that spreads an awful lot of money around? As far as the name BS, having been retaliated against a number of times for speaking my mind, I’ll stick to my comfort zone and allow those with REAL arguments to address the arguments I present, not the person (I think I learned that from you decades ago).

    Otherwise, have a great weekend, I’m off to enjoy it myself. 😉

  15. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    “Yeah New Jersey works well. We don’t wont to jail mobsters. ”

    Haha! It’s funny because New Jersey is all full of mobsters and everyone who lives or works there is in La Cosa Nostra! Also, they don’t have large cities with substantial and diverse low income populations, the way Houston does, because everyone up there is Italian!

    It’s indeed a sad day when lefty anarchists such as Lee Rosenthal and Chris Christie disagree with staunch Burkeans such as Paul Kubosh, isn’t it?

    Anyway, those interested in making government policy on the basis of facts, data, and respect for the rights of citizens might be interested in what’s working and might not be working in New Jersey since January.

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    Robbie:

    Some of the mobsters in NJ shut down bridges and close beaches. Just sayin’.

  17. neither here nor there says:

    Paul what made you assume I had not read the story?

    I wanted to know what your response would be, because the way it was presented does not present a true picture. The Story said 9% of those that paid cash bond. Is that 9% of the other persons that were released after the change? If it was and it seems to be then it does not mean much. Besides percentage don’t mean much do they Paul, 30% of 10 is 3, how many people over what time line.

    I don’t have a dog in the fight, do not have feelings either way, YOU DO. But unlike Republican Trump lovers I have a strong desire for facts on which I can make a fair decision.

    So Paul, what percentage of people who do not pay cash bond do not appear? But it really does not matter because you have to be poor to understand how they think and some people have problems thinking like a poor person. If you are poor and you have a job and a family, you may have to make a choice do I go to work to put food on the table or do I go to court? Poor people live one day at a time, they can’t afford to think about tomorrow. A person once used to close by saying, “It’s hell to be poor!”

  18. Paul Kubosh says:

    Neither,

    I make a living fighting for poor people. I am certain I understand the plight of the poor far more than any of you amateur political commentators do. I have bled in the streets with the poor while you people hide here in your comfort zone. I have never seen you guys on the field defending the people. You should try putting your money where your mouth is.

  19. Paul Kubosh says:

    Spend a day fighting the state in a jury trial in Galveston for $80 all because a black guy left his fishing license at home. When you tell the judge you are not going to pay the $500 because that is a week’s pay. See the judges reaction when you say he was fishing because he was hungry. See the joy in his face when you get the not guilty and he thanks you for saving him a week’s pay. Those and other things like that is what I have dedicated my life to. All of you anonymous posters I call cowards.

  20. Paul Kubosh says:

    I used the term black guy because the game warden wasn’t at the yacht club checking the boats of the white people. Instead they spend their time at roll over pass picking on the poor.

  21. Steve Houston says:

    PK, and you make a very handsome living defending anyone that can afford your services. Nobody is begrudging you making a living but if you think sitting in an air conditioned courthouse flapping your gums in a trial makes you a hero compared to all those who truly help the poor in numerous ways, including bleeding on the streets, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. The truly poor rarely can rarely afford a lawyer or a bondsman, hence the predicament Harris County found itself in. We all know it so there’s no need to get personal.

    Aside from the fact that I pointed out the value of your services in the previous post, it doesn’t change the fact that the previous bail system was illegal and proven to impact the poor more than the middle class or well off. Then a couple of you bandy about junk statistics like you barely made it through stats 101 in your freshman year of college, suggesting they mean anything in the context of the illegality of the system. Other communities manage to pass constitutional challenges so why can’t Harris County just move forward, fix the system, and let the chips fall where they may?

  22. neither here nor there says:

    Paul, I doubt it, by the way if you want to know my name, which you probably do it is Manuel, called Méme by family and people who knew when I was young, Rob Todd gave me the nickname Manny, which I use sometimes.

    I have been working to advance the Chicanos since I was a teenager, that is the word we preferred to use. I toiled in the fields as a young boy of 7 picking cotton from sun up to sun down picking cotton to help my family. I have worked along side people who risked their lives to do dangerous jobs to support their family, the none “Mexican” were not sent to those jobs.

    So, I think I know poor people. I have seen young girls live with their boyfriends so that they could help pay the rent. I have seen young boys start selling drugs so they could help their mother pay the rent. I helped a young woman get to Texas A&M whose mother was a prostitute. I could go on but you keep helping people, but don’t charge them.

  23. Paul and Michael Kubosh make a living ‘fighting’ for people.

    Years later we still have yet to see any real solutions for working families.

    So many bail bondsman and lawyers, so few ideas.

  24. paul kubosh says:

    I knew I would get all you blowhards all worked up. Truth hurts…blah blah blah.

  25. neither here nor there says:

    Well thank you Paul, for not putting yourself in the blowhard group.

    What truth are you referring to???? This;

    The expansion of companies that benefit from crime and incarceration is no accident; it is the result of extensive lobbying by businesses that profit from other people’s misfortune – primarily the misfortune of the poor, who are vastly overrepresented in our nation’s prisons and jails.

    Often overlooked among the special interests that profit from the criminal justice system in the U.S. is an industry that portrays itself as one dedicated to helping people get out of jail. In actuality, though, it is involved in keeping people incarcerated in order to protect its bottom line.

    http://blog.justicepolicy.org/2012/09/bail-bond-companies-profit-while.html

  26. Steve Houston says:

    Neither, I’m sure PK knows he’s just blowing smoke, his idea of “helping the poor” means “helping those who can pay”, but in his defense his clients get pretty decent bang for the buck in traffic court, the family bonding business certainly not the most expensive either. I’m also sure he really believes he helps “the poor” more than most by advocating enforcing minor drug laws that typically impact them more than most, maintaining the old bail system, and other stances; kind of a “tough love” approach some conservatives embrace that fell out of favor when the tea baggers started looking at the resulting bills they were unwilling to pay. More power to him and his brother scrambling to reap the rewards of their respective businesses while the rest of the world moves forward; it’s better than them opening liquor stores, pay day loan stores, used car lots and pawn shops in low income areas to really fleece the poor.

  27. Ross says:

    Joe McElligot, still pushing unworkable ideas he grabbed from elsewhere, rather than proposing policies that will work under Texas law and the attitudes that prevail in Houston. I don’t always agree with the Kubosh family, but they are consistent in their stances, and mean what they say.

  28. Paul Kubosh says:

    Hell, now y’all are making me feel bad for being such an asshole. Somehow this has to be kuffners fault. 🙂

  29. Ross,

    Most-all of my ideas are from major US cities and republican states. Everything is listed on my website.

    I’ve already proposed how to amend state and local laws.

    If houstonians are too ignorant to understand basic reforms we have bigger problems.

    Let me know Jack Morman builds his own website and social media and puts real ideas on it.

  30. Bill Daniels says:

    To Paul’s detractors:

    The Kubosh family will forever leave a positive legacy on Houston, for leading the charge to free Houston from the tyranny of Bill White’s red light camera menace. They saw evil and stood up to it, and won.