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Posts Tagged ‘jail overcrowding’

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 […]

The Sheriff’s office is hiring

Good. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says by balancing his department’s $392 million budget, he’ll be able to transfer 100 deputies from jail duties to crime-fighting jobs in the next year while hiring hundreds of new civilian jailers. During a news conference Monday, Garcia said when he took office in January 2009 the department was […]

Better budget news

For the city. The city of Houston may have $21 million more in income in the coming fiscal year than it had planned on before Wednesday. That’s when it got the news that the Harris County Appraisal District projects that taxable values in the city — and by extension, the amount of taxes it collects […]

Interview with Sheriff Adrian Garcia

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia was elected in 2008 with the highest vote total of any candidate on the ballot. He inherited an office that was tainted by the scandals of his long-term predecessor, a jail system that was overcrowded, understaffed, unsafe, unsanitary, and under the spotlight of federal and state inspectors, a hiring freeze […]

Inmate outsourcing on the way out

This is unequivocally good news. Dropping inmate numbers at the Harris County Jail will let the county end its nearly 5-year-old practice of shipping overflow inmates to Louisiana and other Texas counties within days, Sheriff Adrian Garcia said this week. The jail population has fallen 31 percent since 2008, to 8,573 inmates. The jail has […]

More on the crime lab and the city jail

Here we have some more information about Mayor Parker’s plans for the crime lab, though it’s still not really clear where this is going. Parker wants to make the lab independent of HPD and the city, overseen instead by a local government board similar to the Port of Houston Authority, whose members are jointly appointed […]

Lykos v Anderson

I obviously don’t have a dog in the Republican District Attorney primary fight, but I like a good high-profile political battle as much as the next junkie, so stories about it are interesting to me. [DA Pat] Lykos argues she is a reformer with three years of improvements under her belt while Mike Anderson, a […]

Reducing prison population is hard

And we’re taking a step backwards. Last summer, when tough-on-crime Texas closed its first prison ever, legislative leaders were jubilant over downsizing one of the nation’s largest corrections systems by more than 1,000 beds. It was a first big step, they said, toward saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in coming years. Meanwhile, prison […]

More on Lykos versus the cops

Here’s another Chron story about the recent dust-up between Harris County DA Pat Lykos and six Harris County police groups that don’t like her policy that trace amounts of crack will not be prosecuted as felonies. Two points that are worth highlighting from the story: State District Judge Michael McSpadden has presided over Houston’s criminal […]

Lykos versus the cops

Various law enforcement unions are not happy with Harris County DA Pat Lykos. Leaders of six Harris County police organizations Tuesday announced a vote of no confidence in District Attorney Pat Lykos, saying she has “shirked her duty” and has turned down viable cases for prosecution. The no-confidence vote – a rare public fissure in […]