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Posts Tagged ‘jails’

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 […]

Bland committee makes its recommendations for Waller County jail

Good to see. Waller County needs a new jail, local officers need body cameras to record their activities and the sheriff’s office needs to promote civility, a study committee formed after the death of Sandra Bland said Tuesday. The county came under national scrutiny in July when Bland was found hanged in her jail cell […]

If we really cared about improving mental health in Texas

We would have expanded Medicaid at our first opportunity. Federal health officials say people with mental illness and addictions are being left behind in Texas because the state hasn’t expanded Medicaid to more low-income adults. The health care program for the poor is controversial for many Republicans. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that expansion was […]

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 […]

“Prison gerrymandering” tossed by federal court

Noted for the record. The Federal District Court for Florida’s Northern District ruled Monday that the prison gerrymandering in Florida’s Jefferson County unconstitutionally dilutes the voting power of its residents. By packing inmates who can’t vote into a district, but counting them when drawing electoral maps, District Judge Mark Walker said the county had violated […]

What’s next for Adrian Garcia?

We haven’t seen the last of him, I suspect. In less than a year, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has gone from being the top Democratic elected official in Harris County to an also-ran in back-to-back elections. Garcia’s resounding primary loss to U.S. Rep. Gene Green on Tuesday leaves him politically precarious, having alienated […]

Chron overview of the Sheriff races

The candidate who isn’t there nonetheless plays a central role. Appointed incumbent Ron Hickman faces two repeat challengers in the GOP primary, while four others, including former Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez battle for the Democratic nomination. The candidates square off in an election year when criminal justice issues are on the forefront of the […]

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 […]

Precinct analysis: The Harris County bonds

Courtesy of Mike Morris at the Chron. It’s an open secret of local politics that, when Harris County needs voter approval for big projects, they turn not to suburban county residents but to those in the city of Houston’s urban core. Just look at this month’s elections: Though county offices are on the ballot in […]

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 […]

Ground broken on the joint processing center

Good. The majority of suspects arrested by Houston police get booked at one of two city jails, and within 48 hours they are transferred and booked in all over again at the Harris County Jail. Two years from now, officials say, this duplication will be a thing of the past. The central and southeast police […]

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 […]

No support for a jail administrator

Not without the consent of the Legislature. The idea of shifting leadership of the Harris County Jail to an administrator may be losing steam, several county leaders said Thursday after reviewing a feasibility study by the sheriff’s office. Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack asked newly appointed Sheriff Ron Hickman in May to look into the […]

Council approves inmate processing center deal with Harris County

Very good news. An end is in sight for the inefficient process of shuttling prisoners in and out of redundant local lockups after the City Council on Wednesday approved an agreement with Harris County to build a long-discussed inmate processing center. Public officials have discussed the need for a new booking center since the 1990s, […]

Hickman’s “plan” for an LGBT policy

It’s sort of something, I guess. Lou Weaver grew up respecting the badge. His father was a cop. His father’s friends were cops. And so Weaver never feared the police. That changed when Weaver, who is transgender, was pulled over several years ago on a traffic stop. The officer’s reaction to Weaver explaining that he […]

Chron Mayoral profile: Adrian Garcia

Here’s the third in a series of profiles on the top candidates running for mayor in Houston, in this case on Adrian Garcia. The youngest of six children born to poor Mexican immigrants could soon occupy the mayor’s office of the nation’s fourth largest city – an unlikely success story that started in a tattered […]

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 […]

Sandra Bland’s death ruled a suicide

That’s only part of this tragic story. Waller County prosecutors said Thursday that a preliminary autopsy found that Sandra Bland committed suicide, but they pledged to continue investigating the circumstances surrounding her controversial arrest by a state trooper as well as her death in a county jail cell. “The pathological findings … conclude that the […]

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. […]

No more LGBT liaison at the Sheriff’s office

So according to the Houston Press, it would seem our new Sheriff is not exactly comfortable with gay people. First, he told to his surprise at a Republican club meeting that the HCSO website has a small rainbow flag tucked into a corner: Needless to say, that rainbow flag is now gone. What’s more worrisome […]

More on Sheriff Hickman

A profile of appointed Sheriff Ron Hickman that’s long on biography but short on policy. Hickman is 63 and has spent his entire career doing police work. No step on his path has been sudden or unanticipated. Hickman expressed interest in the sheriff’s job when there were hints of a vacancy, before Garcia had announced […]

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 […]

Jailhouse woes for the Sheriff

Been a bad couple of weeks for Sheriff Garcia. A year and a half after a mentally ill inmate was found festering in squalor in a Harris County jail cell – apparently for weeks – Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia on Friday fired six jailers and suspended 29 others, the largest disciplinary action within the […]

Decriminalizing truancy

This is important. Senate Bill 106, filed by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would make major overhauls to current truancy law, including referring students to a civil court that hears truancy cases rather than a criminal court. Under current law, children as young as 12 who miss 10 or more days or parts of days in […]

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. […]

Still no consensus on how to deal with the criminal justice complex

And it’s back to the Mayor. Pushed by Mayor Annise Parker to decide whether Houston’s aging police and courts buildings should get patchwork repairs or be fully replaced, with both options carrying staggering price tags, City Council members instead opted for indecision. By a 12-4 vote, the body sidestepped both options – one of which […]

More on revamping Secure Communities

Stace responds to me. The involvement of local law enforcement has always been a sticking point for me. I’ve never been a fan of the federalization of local cops for the purpose of rounding non-criminal working brown people; I don’t care if the cops are led by a Democratic mayor or sheriff. Prerna’s post has […]

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 […]