Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Posts Tagged ‘jail overcrowding’

Whitmire files complaint against bail-denying magistrates

Good. An influential Texas lawmaker on Thursday filed formal complaints against three Harris County magistrate judges after they were captured on videotape rushing misdemeanor defendants to jail without considering no-cost bonds. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, filed the complaints with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, citing an article published Thursday in the Houston Chronicle […]

New Sheriff not interested in defending current bail policies

Good. After defeating Sheriff Ron Hickman in the election this month, Sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez is already sticking his nose in Hickman’s official business — mainly, the lawsuit filed against him. Hickman, along with the county, all the county judges and five bail hearing officers, has been sued for participating in what a national civil rights […]

Checking in with Ed Gonzalez

Also known as Harris County Sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez. Ed Gonzalez will have a lot to do when he assumes the position of the county’s top cop in January. He’ll have to rein in overtime pay, manage the Harris County jail population and win over the thousands of employees who backed his opponent in Tuesday’s election. […]

Checking in with Kim Ogg

That’s District Attorney-elect Kim Ogg now. Kim Ogg, still hoarse from shouting over the jubilant victory party crowd after winning her race for Harris County District Attorney, said Wednesday that her first order of business would be to evaluate and secure all of the evidence used in thousands of pending criminal cases. Ogg, who will […]

The answer is to always cram more people in the jails

Seriously? Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman is asking the state jail commission to let nearly 200 inmates sleep on plastic cots on the floor of the already overcrowded county jail system, a request challenged by more than a dozen Houston-area lawmakers. The lawmakers note that county officials have not fully followed the advice of their […]

More lawyers for the bail practices lawsuit

I’m still not thrilled about this. Harris County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to add another law firm to the county’s court fight against bail reform, a group whose job will be representing 16 county criminal judges who were recently added to a pending federal civil rights lawsuit. […] Records show Harris County already has paid […]

Three updates on county-related lawsuits

Update #1: Judges sued as part of Harris County federal court bail challenge. Attorneys challenging the constitutionality of Harris County’s pretrial bail policies have added all 16 of Harris County’s misdemeanor court judges as defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit this week after mediation aimed at settling the dispute broke down after only two […]

What’s that definition of insanity again?

How many times are we going to find ourselves in this same situation before we finally accept that we need to do something different? The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has cut funding for law enforcement operations to cover exploding overtime costs at the department’s understaffed jail, a move critics say could harm public safety while […]

More focus on bail practices

Something needs to be done, whether via the ongoing lawsuit or other means. Sandra Thompson, a University of Houston law professor, has spent hundreds of dollars bailing her cousin out of jail for minor offenses. “I get steamed under the collar when I think about this issue,” Thompson said. “I’m really mad and I’m ready […]

Roadside drug tests

Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. A Houston police officer pulled Barry Demings over as he headed to work in Beaumont and plucked a spot of white powder off the floorboard of Demings’ year-old Ford Explorer. Demings had just detailed the SUV – and wondered later if a speck of soap upended his life. […]

We’re outsourcing inmates again

We never learn. Harris County, in the latest move to keep its swelling jail population in check, is pursuing an agreement with neighboring Fort Bend County to send inmates to the suburb’s jail. A Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman called the measure precautionary. If it is approved by commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, it’s not […]

Sandra Bland, one year later

The timing of this is tragically appropriate. With confident, and sometimes vulnerable, lyrics, a group of poets and singers Sunday afternoon commemorated the life of [Sandra] Bland, who had been found dead in her Waller County Jail cell three days after her arrest. Authorities ruled the 28-year-old’s death a suicide. More than 75 people assembled […]

Harris County takes a step towards jail reform

Good. Harris County commissioners voted Tuesday to back a sweeping plan to reform the criminal justice system, a week after the Harris County Jail began shipping inmates to other counties to avoid reaching capacity. Commissioners voted to accept a $2 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation and to allocate more than $3.3 million from general-fund […]

It’s not easy going green

And by “going green” I mean legalizing pot, at least in Texas. Advocacy groups and lawmakers say marijuana policy reform in Texas could be the fiscally responsible thing to do in light of the state’s decreasing oil and gas revenues. Texas legislators should look to marijuana policy reform to save, and even make, money in […]

Another way to achieve bail reform

From the Quorum Report: The unnecessary death of Sandra Bland in the Waller County Jail last summer has now put the reform of bail bonds in focus as a key criminal justice issue ahead of the next legislative session. Last month, a Waller County grand jury declined to indict those involved in [Sandra] Bland’s arrest […]

Selecting a successor for El Franco Lee: What I’m looking for

Building on what we discussed last time, what am I, as one of maybe 100 people who has the privilege of selecting a Democratic nominee to take El Franco Lee’s place on the November ballot – and most likely, on Commissioners Court for the foreseeable future – looking for? What qualities do I want that […]

County finally takes jail overcrowding seriously

We’ll see what this actually becomes. Chasing $4 million in grant money, Harris County officials on Thursday announced reforms in the criminal justice system to unclog dockets, lower jail population and address racial and ethnic disparities. And because the changes are so important, they said, they will do it even if they don’t get the […]

Our bail policies are unjust, costly, and stupid

Any questions about how I really feel? “The numbers clearly tell the story: More than three-fourths of the people in Harris County Jail haven’t been convicted of crime, and the majority of them are sitting in jail simply because they can’t afford to get out – not because they’re a threat to public safety,” said […]

It’s not just bail reform that we need

The latest from Emily dePrang at the Observer: It’s a Monday morning, a little past 9:00. Half an hour ago, this hallway on the eighth floor of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center in downtown Houston was swarmed with people. Now all the other courtrooms have opened, swallowed their subjects, and closed up again. Only […]

More jail troubles

It’s ugly, both in content and in timing for Adrian Garcia. Over the past nine months, the Houston Chronicle has reviewed more than 1,000 disciplinary reports provided by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Nearly half of those internal affairs investigations from 2010 through May 2015 resulted in discipline against jail staff who often brutalize inmates […]

Will Sandra Bland’s death help lead to bail reform?

That would be a fitting and just outcome if it does. Harris County and the state should reform an unfair bond system that punishes the poor more harshly, according to civil rights leaders, legislative officials and criminal experts who gathered Wednesday in front of the county’s criminal justice center. Reform, they argued, could prevent another […]

What Dallas County can teach us about jail overcrowding

Why can’t Harris County be more like Dallas County, at least in this regard? Dallas County’s jail population has hit an all-time low. That means more spacious jail tanks and fewer bologna sandwiches. If the trend continues, it could add up to big savings for taxpayers. The jail, the seventh-largest in the country, is the […]

Outsourcing inmates again

We’ve been down this road before. For the first time in three years, the Harris County sheriff began transferring busloads of inmates this week to other correctional facilities to avoid overcrowding at the state’s largest jail. The jail population is currently at 93 percent of its 9,434-bed capacity, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said Monday. […]

Bail reform for Harris County?

This would be a big deal. In jails across the country, including Harris County, a majority of the people behind bars have not been convicted of a crime. In the jail complex on the north side of downtown Houston, more than 6,600 people, about three-quarters of the prisoners there, are waiting to go to trial. […]

Sheriff Hickman

Here’s your new Sheriff, Harris County. Commissioners Court named Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman the new sheriff of Harris County to replace Adrian Garcia who resigned last week to run for mayor of Houston. The county leaders took a formal vote Tuesday on the appointment after a brief closed-door session to discuss candidates to fill […]

Separating the Sheriff and the jail

As Commissioners Court prepares to name a replacement Sheriff, they have some bigger plans to discuss as well. A revolutionary idea is being pitched that would reshape the law enforcement agency by removing the troubled jail from the sheriff’s responsibilities. One county commissioner is leading the charge to create a new jail administrator who would […]

You have the right to a phone call

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

Bill to reduce pot penalties filed

Here we go. A coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans introduced a proposal Monday to make possession of a small amount of marijuana in Texas a civil infraction, instead of a crime. House Bill 507, filed by state Rep. Joe Moody, would make those caught with an ounce of pot or less subject only […]

The overcrowded jails of Montgomery County

Sometimes it’s hard to be a County Commissioner. Montgomery County officials are facing a dilemma partly of their own making: What to do with an ever-growing jail population after selling off another lockup. The county’s jailers are struggling to find space for inmates — with dozens on occasion being forced to sleep on the floor […]

Ogg proposes marijuana prosecution reforms

I like the sound of this. Kim Ogg, the Democratic nominee for Harris County district attorney, said Friday she will ticket and enforce community service for, instead of arrest and jail, thousands of people arrested each year in Houston for low-level marijuana possession. “We can save up to 10 million dollars a year, folks,” Ogg […]

Walking a mile in their ankle monitors

You have to admire this kind of dedication to one’s office. Though she has never been convicted of a crime, Marsha McLane is having her every movement these days tracked by a satellite-monitored anklet, just like thousands of ex-cons in Texas. Charged with rebuilding a little-known state agency that supervises high-risk sex offenders, she is […]

We still need to reduce inmate headcount

The Harris County jail’s population is down from historic highs, but with the usual summer uptick coming, Sheriff Adrian Garcia has asked for a waiver to make some more beds available. State officials have rejected a request from Sheriff Adrian Garcia to increase the capacity of the Harris County Jail and said local leaders have […]

Perry and pot

Haul out your blind squirrels and acorns cliches. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday that he favors decriminalizing marijuana use and lessening punishment for minor offenders as the nation moves toward a more moderate approach to pot use and two states have legalized the drug. Perry’s comments surprised some, since the governor has repeatedly criticized […]

On pot and prosecutions

I’m sure you’ve heard about President Obama’s remarks that marijuana isn’t really more harmful than alcohol. There’s plenty of evidence to back that assertion, but Harris County DA Devon Anderson strongly disagreed with him anyway. President Barack Obama’s recently published remarks calling marijuana less dangerous than alcohol has prompted Harris County’s District Attorney to release […]