After saying some nice things about Grits' series on Harris jail overcrowding last year (thanks!), Tom offered his take:
I'm sure Rains' "tough" stance on requiring jail time for all drug offenders plays well on the campaign trail. But it sure stinks as a matter of justice and Harris County jail administration. Here's hoping that the local criminal defense bar continues to recuse him in drug cases and that a political opponent emerges to call him out on the short-sighted nature of his policy.I agree it'd be nice to see an opponent call Rains on this, but I wish an appellate court would do it first. Texas state law (via HB 2668, passed in 2003) requires judges to sentence first-time low-level (less than 1 gram) drug offenders to probation and treatment instead of incarceration. What Judge Rains is doing is sentencing first-time offenders to up to six months in the county jail as a condition of probation. (Sneaky, huh?) That has led directly to Harris County's jail overcrowding, according to several analyses. I wrote last year that judges were to blame for Harris County Jail overcrowding, and this is a great example why.
Not only is this thoughtlessly regressive policy costing the taxpayers extra money, in many cases it costs offenders their employment and keeps addicts out of treatment. In the words of the recusal motion, Judge Rains' policies do not serve the "interests of justice." Regardless, Judge Rains has presided over the 176th District Court in Houston without these policies being contested for the last 18 years.