Progressives Broke Our Criminal Justice System. Result? We Suffer High Crime, Costs, Crowded Jail
Updated: Oct 7
The Harris County Criminal Justice System is just that, a system. For the system to work, defendants and their cases must flow through the system, from arrest, Probable Cause hearing, incarceration/bond, pre-trial hearings, trial (or plea bargain), to case adjudication. Upon conviction, most felony offenders are sentenced and transferred to TDCJ (prison), which finally gets these criminals out of our county jail or off our streets (if out on bond). Now, if a major part of our local criminal justice system breaks down and these felony offenders stop flowing to TDCJ, more and more criminals will stack up in our county jail AND spill out onto our streets on bond (providing them with more opportunities to commit crime). Unfortunately, that's exactly what has happened in Harris County - for the past several years, our criminal justice has been broken. So, what happened?
The initial increase in the case backlog started in early 2018, after Hurricane Harvey (2017) flooded our main criminal courthouse and caused us to hold hearings inside the jail and share the courtrooms in the Family, Civil, and Juvenile buildings. Still, the dramatic rise in the backlog began after Harris County voters swept all the experienced, conservative judges out of Office in November 2018, replacing them with liberal, progressive judges - see link below:
Since taking the bench in January 2019, these progressive judges have allowed the criminal case backlog to explode, especially in the Criminal District Courts (felony cases). In short, over the last 3.5 years, these judges have done little more than grant bail bonds and reset cases, with relatively few felony defendants/cases actually being processed to adjudication. In the name of "criminal justice reform", these judges have been more concerned with assisting criminal defendants (e.g., granting PR bonds, setting low bonds, approving multiple bonds, making it more difficult to revoke bonds) than protecting the public and crime victims (to include poor people living in under-served communities). The defendants not released on bond continue to just stack up in our county jail, with their criminal cases just continuously reset. In January 2021, after two years of this practice, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez (among others) directly called out these progressive judges and demanded that they properly do their jobs - see the links below (watch the video interview):
Still, when confronted about the huge case backlog, their reckless bail bond decisions, the on-going crime wave, and the crowded Harris County Jail, our progressive judges try to shift the blame to Hurricane Harvey, the District Attorney's Office, our local law enforcement officers, the bail bond industry, the COVID pandemic, and everyone else except themselves. Frankly, the JUDGES are responsible for ensuring that cases are processed in a timely manner and possess a huge amount of authority under the law to move cases along. Instead, over the past several years, our incompetent judges showed almost no leadership, held very few trials, and allowed case adjudications to slow to a crawl. As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. So, how incompetent, dysfunctional, and irresponsible have these judges been? For some examples, click on the links below:
So, with Sheriff Gonzalez, Mayor Turner, District Attorney Ogg, State Senator Whitmire, Crime Stoppers, the local media, police organizations, crime victims, and many others calling out these judges, have things significantly improved? No. It's been 18 months since Sheriff Gonzalez first spoke out and the case backlog remains huge, the crime wave continues, and the county jail population continues to surge. As of 6/6/22, the Harris County Jail population had climbed to 9,948, of which 9,309 inmates (~94%) had felony cases - see charts below. For context, with the 1307 Baker Street Jail still closed, the total housing capacity of the Harris County Jail is only 9,494. When you add in 500 contract (out-source) beds, our jail housing capacity rises to 9,994. Due to classification constraints, the county jail is essentially full right now. Sheriff Gonzalez will soon have no choice but to out-source even more inmates at a significant cost to all Harris County taxpayers. Aside from the crowded conditions and soaring cost, our county jail continues to be a violent place, to include a number of recent inmate deaths - see links below:
People understand that elections have consequences, and residents will vote for "change" if they lose faith in their elected officials. Let's face it, a broken local criminal justice system, an on-going crime wave, Judge Lina Hidalgo's corruption scandal, Commissioners Courts' backroom deals (no-bid contracts), a county jail in crisis, wasteful government spending, and the ever-growing county bureaucracy all combine to undermine our Democratic candidates (not just the progressives). Fortunately, some moderate Democrats were able to unseat some of the incumbent local judges during the Democratic primaries - see link below:
Starting immediately, these moderate Democratic candidates need to publicly separate themselves from the liberals and progressives who have done such a poor job of presiding over our criminal justice system and governing our county. If Harris County voters lump our moderate Democratic candidates together with the failed progressives, we risk a disaster in November. Voters need to understand that mainstream, moderate Democrats, not right-wing Republicans, are the "change" Harris County needs right now.
For some related posts from HarrisCountyDemocrats.com, please see the links below:
HARRIS COUNTY JAIL POPULATION CHARTS (6/6/22):
UPDATE 6/22/22: Crime Stoppers of Houston, State Senator John Whitmire, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, District Attorney Kim Ogg, Constable Mark Herman, Houston Police Department officials, crime victims, police unions, and many others continue to sound the alarm and demand that offenders be held accountable for their crimes. For more on this on-going story (the local violent crime wave, criminal case backlog, thousands of felons running our streets out on bond, etc.), please see the media links below:
UPDATE 6/29/22: We encourage interested viewers to read the article below:
UPDATE 7/8/22: On 6/28/22, Harris County Commissioners Court considered authorizing the HCSO to outsource (transfer/house) county inmates to a private contract jail located in Post, Texas. For those unaware, Post is 530 miles from Houston (yes, you read that right). This new contract is in addition to the 500+ Harris County Jail inmates already outsourced and housed in Louisiana. Aside from all the transportation and operational issues/logistics, the on-going cost of outsourcing all these inmates hundreds of miles from Houston is going to be extremely expensive (tens of millions of dollars annually). To be clear, this needless, wasteful, multi-million-dollar expense is the direct result of our incompetent, progressive judges allowing felony criminal cases to simply stack up over the past three years. Again, elections have consequences. Harris County taxpayers can't afford another four years of failed progressive "leadership" undermining our criminal justice system.
For more information, please see the 6/28/22 Harris County Commissioners Court Agenda (below), Item #295:
UPDATE 7/20/22: Yesterday, Harris County Commissioners Court approved the contract to out-source county inmates to Post, Texas (the Giles Dalby Correctional Facility). The price tag for this new out-sourcing contract has now been revealed: $25 million annually. Wow. That is in addition to the taxpayer money already being spent to house over 500 county inmates in Louisiana.
When Harris County citizens complain about the adverse impact of housing county inmates hundreds of miles from Houston (e.g. difficultly in conducting in-person attorney/client visits, public visitation, court hearings, the huge financial cost, etc.), we hope they also acknowledge the cause of this situation: the incompetent, progressive criminal court judges who allowed the criminal case backlog to surge to historic levels over the past several years. This November, Harris County voters will have a chance to fire these incompetent, incumbent judges and get our local criminal justice system working again. We hope they seize the opportunity.
For more on this topic, please click on the below media link:
UPDATE: On 10/1/22, HarrisCountyDemocrats.com posted our candidate endorsements for the upcoming general election in November. To view our endorsements, please click on the link below:
FOR MORE POSTS, please routinely check HarrisCountyDemocrats.com.