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Posts Tagged ‘jail overcrowding’

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 […]

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 […]