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Posts Tagged ‘jails’

County will use public defenders at bail hearings

Good. Harris County commissioners on Tuesday approved a pilot program to make public defenders available at bail hearings, a step aimed at retooling a criminal justice system that has increasingly drawn criticism for jailing thousands of poor, low-risk offenders. Within months, county officials anticipate that two public defenders will be present at bail hearings for […]

More reasons not to put people in jail

We shouldn’t put people in jail for owing fines. In January, state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, filed House Bill 1125, which would ban Texas judges from jailing people for an offense that is punishable only by a fine. State Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, soon signed on as a joint author. On Thursday, White also […]

Bail reform bills

Glad to see this. An unusual bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and judges has teamed up to back broad reforms in Texas that could eliminate cash bail for nonviolent offenders who are not deemed dangerous or a flight risk. Bills introduced simultaneously in the House and the Senate this week by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and […]

Sheriff Gonzalez testifies in bail practices trial

He says on the stand what he has been saying elsewhere. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez took the witness stand for an hour Wednesday afternoon in a closely watched federal civil rights case that is challenging whether it is constitutional to impose monetary bail on people arrested for minor offenses if they cannot afford to […]

Bail practices lawsuit gets going

The first day in court for this lawsuit was Monday. Neal S. Manne, a managing partner at Susman Godfrey, told Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal in his opening statement Monday that ODonnell and hundreds of other poor people charged with minor crimes do not get a fair chance to win pretrial release here […]

County approves defense attorneys for bail hearings

Long overdue. Harris County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to develop a pilot program that would make public defenders present at bail hearings, a move aimed at reducing what officials say is the unnecessary jailing of thousands of defendants because they can’t afford bail or are unfamiliar with the legal process. The pilot could lead to […]

Ogg sides with bail reformers

As well she should. District Attorney Kim Ogg on Friday filed a brief supporting bail reform in the lawsuit brought against Harris County’s misdemeanor judges to change the bail system. The civil rights lawsuit, filed in federal court, is expected to begin a three-day hearing on Monday about whether the judge should issue an injunction. […]

The Sandra Bland Act

Good. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, on Thursday filed House Bill 2702, dubbed the Sandra Bland Act. The exhaustive piece of legislation would expand what qualifies as racial and ethnic profiling; mandate people experiencing a mental health crisis and substance abuse be diverted to treatment over jail; and create more training and reporting requirements for […]

Cutting ICE

Another campaign promise gets fulfilled. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has ended a controversial partnership with federal immigration authorities that trained a team of county deputies to determine the immigration status of jailed suspects and hold those selected for deportation. Gonzalez, a Democrat who took office in January, said he will reassign 10 deputies trained […]

Ogg launches her pot prosecution reform program

We’ve been waiting for this. The Harris County district attorney’s plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana drew reactions swift and strong Thursday from both sides of the debate. District Attorney Kim Ogg made the announced Thursday backed by a bevy of local officials, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, Sheriff […]

Harris County really needs to settle that bail practices lawsuit

Enough already. Two Houston-based lawmakers called on Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan Friday to dismiss an attorney hired to represent county judges in a federal civil rights lawsuit, after that attorney claimed in a hearing that many people jailed in Harris County were there by choice – not because they could not afford to post […]

Alternate funding sources

That’s one way to do it. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, announced plans Friday to raise public funds for Travis County, days after Gov. Greg Abbott canceled about $1.5 million in criminal justice grants over the county’s new “sanctuary” policy. Rodriguez’s initiative is called Travis County #StrongerTogether and it will allow the community to donate […]

Senate “sanctuary cities” bill hearing

Lots of people came out to testify against it, which is a good thing. After a 16-hour hearing that included tears, heckling, bursts of anger and warnings from lawmakers to witnesses to respect the rules of the Capitol’s upper chamber, the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 along party lines early Friday morning to […]

Abbott pulls state grant money to Travis County

As threatened. Gov. Greg Abbott has followed through on his threat to cut off state funding for Travis County over its new “sanctuary” policy. Abbott’s office said Wednesday it has canceled criminal justice grants it usually administers to the county, whose sheriff, Sally Hernandez, recently announced her department would reduce its cooperation with federal immigration […]

Sheriff Hernandez not backing down

Good for her. Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez indicated Thursday she is not backing away from her recently introduced “sanctuary” policy. Her comments came a day after Gov. Greg Abbott proposed the removal of Hernandez, who announced Friday she would reduce her department’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities when they request an inmate be flagged […]

Abbott goes authoritarian

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, but it is still shocking, even in the world we now inhabit. Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that he and state lawmakers will pursue legislation that would “remove from office any officeholder who promotes sanctuary cities,” raising a new consequence as Republicans crack down on local officials who do […]

Abbott versus Travis County

This could get ugly. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is formally demanding that Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez reverse her new policy on cooperation with federal immigration authorities or lose state dollars, further escalating a showdown over “sanctuary cities” that have been in the crosshairs of Republican officials. “This is not a pronouncement of sound public […]

Chron favors a jail administrator

I remain unconvinced. Next month, we’ll have a new sheriff in town. Ed Gonzalez will take command of the largest sheriff’s office in Texas, the third-largest in the nation, with more than 4,600 employees responsible for serving and protecting the estimated 4.5 million people who call Harris County home. It would be nice if our […]

Motion to dismiss county bail practices lawsuit denied

Onward. In a sweeping 78-page opinion issued late last week, a federal judge has denied Harris County’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit that accuses it of operating an unconstitutional bail system. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal dismissed the sheriff and county judges from the lawsuit in their personal, but not official, capacities; and the five […]

The new Sheriff in town

Sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez has his work cut out for him. When newly elected Sheriff Ed Gonzalez takes office on Jan. 1, he will face a tangle of budget, staffing and jail inmate safety issues inherited from more than a decade of struggles at the nation’s third-largest sheriff’s department. Staff shortages at the troubled jail operation […]

City sued over bail practices

One more lawsuit going after the practice of jailing people who can’t afford to post bonf. Two civil rights groups sued the city of Houston late Monday, alleging the city jail has detained people for days at a time without offering them a hearing to determine if there was probable cause for the initial arrest. […]

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. […]

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 […]

More on the Sandra Bland settlement

State Rep. Garnet Coleman is working to implement the reforms mandated by the Sandra Bland lawsuit settlement. House Democrats sparred with state law enforcement officials over questions of racial profiling Tuesday at a sometimes contentious hearing. It was the latest in a series of House County Affairs Committee hearings on policing in advance of the […]

Spending money to defend our terrible bail practices

Ugh. About $170,000 in tax money has been paid to outside attorneys to defend Harris Country officials from a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that the bail bond system discriminates against poor people, records show. That’s more than the cost of a six-month pilot project that would have provided attorneys for indigent misdemeanor offenders at […]

Family of Sandra Bland settles its lawsuit

I hope this brings them some peace, but more importantly I hope it leads to fewer inmate deaths, in Waller County and elsewhere. The family of Sandra Bland — who died last year in a Waller County Jail cell — has reached a settlement with Texas officials in a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer for […]

The bigger debtors’ prison problem

It’s not just Harris County. Last week, an Amarillo attorney released documents that he said showed the city jailed disabled people simply because they were unable to pay municipal fines. According to the Amarillo Globe-News, the victims of this apparent debtors’ prison system include “a disabled veteran on social security who owed $539; a woman living on $490 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Bail practices lawsuit update

There was a hearing in court this week, and the judge was skeptical. U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal declined Thursday to rule on whether Harris County should be dismissed from a lawsuit intended to force officials to reform a tough bail system in which more than 70 percent of jail inmates are being held pretrial. […]

Legislation to ban the jailing of rape victims proposed

Hard to argue with, I must say. The controversial jailing of a rape victim to ensure her testimony could lead to a new state law protecting victims’ rights to an appointed attorney. State Sen. Joan Huffman is joining with Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson and Sheriff Ron Hickman to push for new legislation to […]

Jailed rape victim’s lawyer calls for special prosecutor

To investigate the actions of the DA’s office that led to her incarceration. Prosecutors broke the law when they jailed a rape victim in order to secure her testimony against her attacker, the woman’s attorney claimed Monday in a letter to Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. Attorney Sean Buckley said he believes prosecutors illegally […]