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Fri Mar 15, 2019, 12:46 PM

Harris County (Houston) attempts to end cash bail for non-violent felony charges

Harris County’s New Progressive Judges Are Upending the Bail System

In November, Democrats swept Harris County, Texas, courtrooms, replacing every Republican judge to occupy each of the 59 seats on the ballot. Many of those candidates, including the 19 black women who campaigned together, ran on reform-minded platforms focused on upending the county’s bail system. “We’re locking up a lot of nonviolent people that can’t afford to get out,” said Toria Finch, a Democratic judge who won a seat in a misdemeanor court, during a radio interview soon before the November election. “That’s not right.”

Now, the judges have a chance to do just that. A federal judge in Harris County is currently considering a case that would transform the way bail is set for people charged with felonies, a population that comprises the vast majority of people in jail awaiting trial.


The felony case, a class action, was filed on behalf of three men who had been charged with nonviolent felony offenses, including driving under the influence and drug possession. The men were assigned bail amounts between $15,000 and $30,000. None of them could pay, and two of them remain detained since being brought into custody in mid-January. (The other made bail after about two weeks in jail.) Like the misdemeanor case, lawyers for the plaintiffs are arguing that such a bail system discriminates against poor inmates who are otherwise low risk.

But if the misdemeanor case was a big deal, the case currently in front of the court will be a game-changer. As of March 2016, misdemeanor defendants comprise only about 8 percent of the county jail’s pretrial population—felony defendants, meanwhile, account for the rest. In fact, 77 percent of the entire county jail population, or approximately 6,000 people, at any given time are felony defendants awaiting trial, most of them for nonviolent offenses. And like people charged with misdemeanors, most of the defendants in jail for felony charges are stuck there because they can’t afford a bond. Although there are no national figures available on how many people are in jail because they can’t pay, data from the Prison Policy Initiative says that every day, 465,000 people are held in jail pretrial, and the organization estimates that hundreds of thousands of these people are there because they can’t afford bail.

If the district court sides with Karakatsanis and his clients, Harris County would be one of the largest in the country to severely limit the use of cash bail. The parties will be negotiating a settlement over the next several weeks, and Manne said he’s optimistic those talks will result in a similar outcome as the misdemeanor suit.


read more at https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/03/harris-countys-new-progressive-judges-are-upending-the-bail-system/

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Reply Harris County (Houston) attempts to end cash bail for non-violent felony charges (Original post)
pecosbob Mar 2019 OP
Turbineguy Mar 2019 #1

Response to pecosbob (Original post)

Fri Mar 15, 2019, 01:26 PM

1. Don't fall into the clutches

of the so-called justice system.

It used to be the Police would act as a gatekeeper, making allowance for teenage judgement, strange circumstances and other mitigating factors. Now the system is set up to screw the person involved and as many friends and relatives as possible.

Unless you're rich.

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