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Posts Tagged ‘jail overcrowding’

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 […]

Probation and drug testing update

Sounds like good news. Late last summer, the director of the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department resigned, and the Harris County District Attorney’s office said it would stop using the agency’s drug tests as evidence after revelations that its overburdened drug-testing program had led to the wrongful jailing of some probationers and people […]

Moving the focus back to un-crowding the jails

This is a positive development. Newly appointed Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson on Wednesday pledged to curb the increasing number of low-level felons being sentenced to serve misdemeanor time in the county jail rather than going to prison, known as a “12.44a” sentence, saying she will encourage her prosecutors to push rehabilitation. There has […]

Whitmire weighs in on Harris jail population

State Sen. John Whitmire has pushed back on some of the explanations given for the recent uptick in the Harris County jail population, beginning with the claim that it’s due to state jails taking longer than usual to pick up new inmates. Noting the state prison system has “7,000 empty beds today,” Whitmire said that […]

More on Kim Ogg

Here’s the full Chron story about Kim Ogg’s declaration that she will run for Harris County DA as a Democrat in 2014. “I have the varied experience in policy, in prevention and in prosecution that I think gives me a broad overview of the system,” Ogg told reporters on the steps of the historic 1910 […]

We have to worry about jail overcrowding again

Not good. After a nearly two-year hiatus, the Harris County jail population is nearing capacity, prompting officials to again consider whether to ship some inmates to out-of-state lockups. The latest jail population report shows the total number of detainees dropped significantly from 2009 to the end of 2011, when the population finally dipped below the […]

Hall’s five point crimefighting plan

From the inbox: Houstonians do not feel safe in their homes and their communities. Houston’s crime numbers remain dangerously high and criminals are victimizing us daily. The only thing we hear from the Mayor’s office on this issue is silence. It is unacceptable. “As Mayor, I will make sure that criminals know this City belongs […]

One more ballot item

In addition to the Astrodome and (maybe) Early To Rise referenda, Harris County voters will also get to decide on a jail bond referendum. From the preview story on Tuesday: Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday also is expected to order a $70 million bond election for a long-discussed facility to process inmates arrested by […]

If we need more courts, we should ask for more courts

I’m not sure why there hasn’t been more of a push to deal with this. As Harris County’s population continues to swell, more people means more crimes. And that results in more work for the county’s 22 felony courts. But no court is busier right now than the 209th, which is overseen by Michael McSpadden, […]

No increase in jail population as yet

Good to hear. When Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson toppled incumbent Pat Lykos in last year’s Republican primary, some county budget hawks got fidgety. The campaign’s central issue, after all, was Anderson’s opposition to a Lykos policy that treated cases with drug residue of less than 1/100th of a gram as misdemeanors. Lykos was […]

Sobering center opens up

Good. Mayor Annise Parker joined council members on Thursday to unveil the innovative Houston Recovery Center, a place where people who are intoxicated can sober up instead of being arrested. Officials say there’s only one other similar facility in Texas. “Turns out that a significant percentage of the people we were putting in jail, were […]

I got those empty prison cell blues

There’s a lot of excess prison capacity around the state, which is a big problem for a lot of communities that once thought building prisons, to be operated by private entities, would be a boon for them. Just over a decade ago, prisons were a growth industry, and Texas was the undisputed king. The state […]

Trace cases to be prosecuted as felonies again

So says our new DA. Newly elected Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson said Thursday he will prosecute as felonies drug cases that involve trace amounts of crack cocaine, reversing his predecessor’s stand on the so-called “trace cases.” “If there is enough evidence to test in a lab, then we’ll take the charges,” Anderson said. […]

Once again on bail and jail overcrowding

Grits returns to a familiar topic. Harris County has successfully reduced its jail population in the last couple of years to the point where they no longer must ship inmates to jails in Louisiana and other Texas counties due to overcrowding. And despite Chicken-Little pronouncements from the police union and tuff-on-crime zealots, the sky didn’t […]

On locking up prostitutes

It doesn’t make much sense. Busted 32 times in 17 years for prostitution in Austin and other places, Beatryce Hall’s rap sheet reads like a frequent-flier ticket for Texas prisons: 11 times in 11 years. Many of those trips were courtesy of a 2001 Texas law that allowed prosecutors to charge prostitutes with a felony […]

Harris County probation director resigns

Some fairly big news that has nothing to do with hurricanes, the GOP convention, or the Voting Rights Act. Paul Becker, the director of Harris County’s probation department, resigned Wednesday in the wake of allegations the department mismanaged thousands of drug tests used to decide the fates of probationers and suspects out on bail while […]

Privatizing psych hospitals makes as much sense as privatizing prisons

Especially when it’s the same outfit doing the privatizing in each case. Sixteen months after the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility opened in Conroe, the state’s first publicly funded, privately run psychiatric hospital is facing at least $53,000 in state fines for serious shortcomings in patient care. The private operator, Geo Care, is a […]

Harris County indigent defense costs trending down

Via Grits, here’s an email from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition that shows some good news for Harris County. New numbers from the Commission show that while total indigent defense expenses in Harris County increased by $4.7 million between 2007 and 2011, local indigent defense expenses were lower in 2011 than in 2007, and down […]

Hard times in the prison building business

Bad news for the mostly small counties that are left holding the bag on their bond debt, good news for the rest of us. The dusty West Texas ranch town of Anson, once known for its no-dancing law made famous in the 1984 movie “Footloose,” has a dubious new claim to fame: the Jail to […]