Criminal defendants too poor to bail out of jail prior to trial typically end up with a harsher punishment in Harris County than those with resources to pay for their freedom, according to a new study of more than 6,500 cases.According to the report, defendants able to make bail experience:
The study showed that the poor and others locked up weeks or months pretrial often pay in advance for alleged crimes - even when proven innocent - and usually end up with tougher punishments, too, according to an analysis by Gerald R. Wheeler, a Ph.D. researcher who served as director of the Harris County pretrial department from 1977-83. Wheeler and attorney Gerald Fry examined felony and misdemeanor cases processed in Harris County from January 2012 to June 2013.
Many defendants unable to post bond spent weeks or months in jail awaiting punishment even for relatively minor offenses, such as possession of small amounts of drugs or misdemeanor charges like trespassing.
For example, first-time felony offenders who were unable to post bond spent an average of 68 days in jail before having their cases resolved, the study showed. Those who remained jailed for drug possession - a common charge among Harris County jail inmates - were much less likely to win dismissals or deferred prosecutions than those able to afford to bail out, the study showed.
- 86% fewer pretrial jail days
- 333% better chance of getting deferred adjudication
- 30% better chance of having all charges dismissed
- 24% less chance of being found guilty, and
- 54% fewer jail days sentence
The study also exposed the falsity of claims by surety bondsmen that their clients are more likely to behave pretrial than if they received a personal bond. “'Surety' bond defendants have higher bond forfeiture and revocation rates than personal bond defendants. However, little differences in absconder rates were found between financial and non-financial bail cases," the analysis found.