Harris County Judges Put Bail Reform In Practice Ahead of Settlement

Criminal court judges elected last November are using a local rule to allow many indigent misdemeanor defendants out on their own recognizance, rather than awaiting trial in jail because they can’t afford to bond out.

Inmates in the Harris County Jail, photo taken July 2017.


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Harris County's bail reform lawsuit is still awaiting a final settlement. But county criminal court judges are already putting some of the expected reforms into practice in their courtrooms.

Shortly after taking office, many of the Harris County judges elected last November adopted a new rule similar to the proposed bail reform package. The rule makes it much easier for indigent misdemeanor defendants to bond out on their own recognizance, rather than awaiting trial in jail simply because they can't afford bail.

Judge Shannon Baldwin is one of several judges who will discuss bail reform this Saturday in a town hall hosted by the Texas Organizing Project. "Essentially it allows us to take a look at each individual person and determine are there any – to exhaust, if you will, all non-financial means of securing this defendant's return to court," Baldwin previously told News 88.7.

Critics of the practice, including Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, argue the rule goes too far to accommodate defendants – some of whom are committing additional crimes while free.

NOTE: County Commissioner Rodney Ellis will join three judges at the town hall on bail reform, which will take place this Saturday, October 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lincoln Park Community Center; 979 Grenshaw Street; Houston, Texas 77088. More details, here.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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