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Harris County Requests Delay To Implement Judge’s Bail Order (UPDATE)

Harris County has asked for an emergency hearing to discuss implementation of a federal judge’s order for defendants who can’t afford bail. U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal issued a temporary injunction set to start next Monday for misdemeanor defendants, if there are no other legal restraints. . Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says he is ready to enact them.

UPDATE 5/11/2017 4:41 p.m.: Federal Judge Lee Rosenthal issued new instructions Wednesday for Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to make changes to the county’s bail system starting on Monday, May 15. The sheriff says he supports the changes and is ready to enact them, which could mean the release of hundreds of misdemeanor defendants from jail.

However, Harris County Commissioners are still appealing the judge’s ruling that the bail system is unconstitutional.

PREVIOUSLY: U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal says the county’s bail system violates the Constitution by jailing those who cannot afford bail. District Attorney Kim Ogg agrees with the judge’s viewpoint.

“We should not be incarcerating people on low-level offenses before they’ve been convicted of anything simply because they don’t have the money to bond out. Conversely, I hate the practice that our judges currently employ of releasing even dangerous defendants when they can make bail.”  

Ogg says the practice has been to follow a bail schedule crafted heavily by the bail industry. But she says decisions need to be based on risk to public safety. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez wants a delay implementing the ruling. Robert Soard with the Harris County Attorney’s office says the jail processes 130,000 people each year.

“We’re talking about huge numbers, huge volumes. That’s one reason, I think, that the sheriff has had to ask for additional time. The system is incredibly complex with lots and lots of different people.”

Soard says the issue seems to be over the 5 to 10 percent who are high-risk and the procedure for dealing with them. The Harris County Commissioners were asking for a delay to allow more time to craft a new bail system.

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