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Harris County Leaders Vote Against District Attorney’s $20 Million Budget Request To Hire More Prosecutors

Under Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg’s proposal, 102 additional prosecutors would have been hired.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg (center) attended a summit of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence in Houston and talked about her request for 102 additional prosecutors on Feb. 11, 2019.

The Harris County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday against District Attorney Kim Ogg’s request for a $20 million budget increase to hire more prosecutors.

Under Ogg’s proposal, 102 prosecutors would have been hired, an increase of roughly 40 percent. Ogg said her aim was to reduce the county’s backlog of around 40,000 cases, which had been exacerbated after the Harris County Criminal Justice Center was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. 

“This is a significant expansion of the District Attorney’s Office, and it signals a commitment to doubling down on our system’s over reliance on arrest, prosecution and incarceration for low-level, nonviolent offenses related to poverty, homelessness, mental health, prostitution and substance use,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said in a press release on why he planned to vote against Ogg’s proposal.

“Given the county’s finite resources, we should be investing in reforms like pre-arrest/pre-charge diversion programs that, unlike pre-trial diversion programs, will divert the person before they enter or re-enter the criminal justice system to services and treatments that can better address the root causes of these types of cases,” he said.

Some progressive groups, such as the Texas Organizing Project and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, had also spoken out against the proposal, accusing Ogg of violating her campaign pledge to reform the criminal justice system. The groups said that more prosecutors would lead to more people being jailed.

But Ogg and those who supported the proposal said the aim wasn’t to jail more people, but rather to speed up the criminal justice process.

“It’s not compassionate to make an innocent individual languish in jail while waiting to get their justice because there’s not enough prosecutors to manage the file,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, who voted in favor of the proposal, told Houston Matters. “My intention is to support a staged and stepped increase in the number of trial prosecutors to assist the DA in eliminating this bottleneck in the justice system, so that we can be compassionate and caring for those that need to be out of the jail and either back into society or into the state prison system.”

Andrew Schneider reports on the public testimony regarding Ogg’s proposal:

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