Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ellis, Harrington: Reduce incarceration levels at Harris County Jail

State Sen. Rodney Ellis and Texas Civil Right Project chief James Harrington recently wrote a letter to the Harris County Budget and Management Office suggesting alternatives to incarceration to avoid continuous requests for variances from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for extra jail beds, something the county has done eleven times since 2006. According to the letter:
Harris County's criminal justice system ... continues to use incarceration as its primary way of dealing with individuals with mental illness and low-level drug users. About a quarter of the inmates in the Harris County Jail are taking some kind of medication for mental illness. When looking at the six largest counties in Texas, Harris County leads in the annual number of people per capita it sends to state jail for low-level drug possession of less than one gram.

Spending taxpayer dollars to incarcerate non-violent offenders would make sense if it made our community safer, but studies show that these options are less effective and more expensive than strategies that divert defendants charged with non-violent crimes from incarceration.
Harrington and Ellis argue that the county should develop a written plan to eliminate extra jail beds and embrace alternatives to incarceration, including several specific examples. See the full letter for details.

See related, recent Grits coverage.


Lee said...

Fascinating, but how do you have street cops arrest less people. That is what it ultimately comes down to is the first initial contact.

Anonymous said...


Actually I understand the DA generally requires officers and deputies to contact Intake to confirm that the DA's Office will prosecute. If the DA declines, no arrest. The county also has the opportunity to issue a citation for petty possession but the sheriff and HPD choose not to do so.

So you have a DA, HPD and the SO all collaborating to keep the jail filled for various reasons.

FleaStiff said...

Orange County (CA) did this reduced incarceration thing and had two defendants each wearing ankle monitors go out and rape and kill atleast five prostitutes while being GPS monitored.

Anonymous said...


So what you are claiming is that a 17 year old kid who is written a citation for possession of a joint of marijuana instead of being booked into jail will immediately go out and rape and kill at least five prostitutes while waiting for a court date? Don't flocking move to Colorado or Washington if you really believe that crap!

Or the better question is are you already smoking that stuff while writing on this site? Jeez.:~)

FleaStiff said...

No, I am saying he should be punished for his behavior by being classified as in need of restraint. The fact that he was ticketed by a male police officer largely for being a male of reproducing age (the reason most cops issue tickets or make arrests) is not relevant. Truth is rarely relevant in a court room.
In cop versus shaggy haired layabout unemployed kid, cop wins. In Society versus Defendant, Society wins. Its sort of like gardening where the process is known as pruning. You have to wind up with only the large healthy flowers, not the smaller weaker ones. The citation and the pre-trial detention are just different pruning tools, that's all.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Lee, re: "how do you have street cops arrest less people?"

Here's an option.

Anonymous said...

Harris County Probation keeps the jail full with all their technical violators waiting on motions to revoke. The Harris County Jail is a money machine for too many people in the CJ business.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness idiots Ellis and Harrington don't run shit. Two worthless liberals.

Anonymous said...


So its the cops job to punish instead of the courts? I have that right? Just curious. :~)

TriggerMortis said...

With every new legislative session politicians like the aforementioned Rodney Ellis enact new laws and enhances penalties for those already on the books. The problem begins in Austin, and can only end there.

FleaStiff said...

>So its the cops job to punish instead of the courts?
>I have that right? Just curious. :~)
Yous got it right!
The schoolyard bully er uh..well, now he is a cop.. is hired to go out and select victims to go through the mill. Cops don't select the big and strong and powerful and well-liked, they select the weak, the unpopular, the minorities, the intellectuals, the weird, etc. And they accuse them of something. Maybe its something they did, maybe its not. Usually it don't matter much. Maybe its serious maybe its not, usually it don't matter much.
After the pretrial detention and bail and trial, the defendants will think twice 'bout being some intellectual what mouths off at the cops or being some shaggy haired dude what smokes all the time.
Society then marches on having been neatly if somewhat inefficiently pruned.

Gritsforbreakfast said...


There's plenty of blame to go around. The Lege deserves its share but a lot of this also stems from how local officials use their discretion - particularly re: refusing to use of citations for pot possession and other low-level misdemeanors, charging "trace" paraphernalia cases as state jail felonies, judges refusing to issue personal bonds, etc.. You can't pin it all on the Lege.

TriggerMortis said...

Sorry, but I disagree, Scott. The legislators can simply change the law and decriminalize these so that police officers aren't presented with a choice. Cops get promotions and pay increases based on arrests, so they can't be expected to issue citations when there's no incentive to.

And it's not like the legislators haven't been told this several times by judges in Harris county:

Lastly, let's not forget that when Harris county DA Pat Lykos stopped prosecuting these cases as felonies, HPD and their union made it an election issue and Lykos was voted out. Lykos took one for the cause, but don't expect the sheriff or anyone else on the lower rungs of the political ladder to stick their necks out again.

The reality of the situation calls for legislators to grow a pair and not cave in to the police unions, TDCAA and the private prison lobbyists. But they won't, instead they'll pass the buck and point fingers...

Anonymous said...

the system is designed to benefit one group - the lawyers. the most famous slogan - tell it to the judge - speaks volumes. instead of a warning from the police, the lawyers demand that their "bounty hunting" police ticket, arrest, book or jail defendants. once the police formerly put defendants in the system - then the lawyers/judges get involved. police produce lawyer clients. clients equal lawyerjobs and lawyer revenues. the number one supporters of "lawmakers" and other politicians are the lawyers - for quid pro quo reasons. lawyers get lawmakers/politicians elected/re-elected. and in return, the lawmakers/politicians then make new laws rules regs which are simply - lawyer stimulous packages. the system today is a system of lawyers, by lawyers, for lawyers. the present scheme is maily supported by the taxpayer. lawyers love taxpayer money, and ignore the fact that in many instances, it creates a conflict of interest in the court room. best example - public defense. when a defender is paid by the same folks who are prosecuting and judging a defendant - its a conflict of interest, since all the lawyers involved in the case are having their bread buttered by the same source - the taxpayer. even though its clear that a conflict of interest is created by tax funded public defense, the lawyers, the judges, especially the supreme courts - all look the other way and ignore this major conflict of interest. public defender lawyer jobs and public defender lawyer income trumps justice, and all the lawyers/judges in the courtroom (all members of the same club) ignore the conflict for personal and club member gain. only private lawyers funded by private dollars can eliminate this conflict. gideon demands that states see to it that defendants have counsel. however, when the state directly provides the counsel and/or directly pays for the counsel - thats when the conflict starts. the texas supreme court, along with most every court in the u.s then ignores the conflict that the state created. the courts need to toss out this state solution and require that in the interest of justice that only private solutions be allowed. when a states solution to gideon is the public defender method - it violates the courts own rules pertaining to conflicts of interest. yet the courts overlook their own rules, and violate their own rules, because there is to much public money and public jobs at stake for their colleagues - the lawyers - to pass up. this is the key reason that most folks have zero respect for the court system presently in play.

Anonymous said...

Re: 4:50PM Damn!Despite it being one big ass paragraph, don't deem it too long to read. Afterwards, I hope you have the energy to read this.

Why? Because Anny hit the rusty rigged nail square on the head. It starts with the very first contact and morphs from there. If the Officer & the Intake are allowed to run the show, then that process needs to be recorded on the same disk as the in custody interrogation and any subsequent Live Show-Ups conducted. It's called Checks & Balances for a reason.

Now that we all know damn good and well that the system is rigged, do something about.

What? Stop voting just to be voting. Just because your dad is a crip or a blood doesn't mean you have to be one. If you vote off of the information shoved down your throat via commercials & slick pamphlets, you should be tarred and feathered and forced to wear an R or a D on your forehead. Believe it or not, the Harris County F-Story isn't new, it's been ongoing for decades upon decades and we have the voters to blame for putting lawyers from all of the convoluted niches in charge. And, sometimes goofy voters end up putting bad cops on benches of their very own.

How? Grow a pair and get off the blogs long enough to make a positive contribution to mankind. Create petitions and contact the gang member(s) that represent your turf and let it be known that you are aware of the rigged system and then jump yourself out of the gang. Publicly denounce your affiliation and watch the pounds drop off. Yes, it's rigged. Look up rigged and then look up the watered down version aka: 'broken' and you'll be able to tell the big diff.

When? Right Now! Do it now. Call on ever single Senator, State Reps. the Governor's Office, churches, etc.. (every 60 days) asking them to author or advocate on behalf of some bills addressing the life long consequences suffered by communities that rely on political prisoners and mental defects off their meds. to fuel the cash machines put in place to combat actual crime. Ask Sen. Ellis to consider allowing the citizens to sign on to this letter. Ask him if he signed on to Mr. Rob Fickman's Report addressed to all 15 of the Misdemeanor judges, (with basically the same request)?

A system (any system) that is allowed to be bastardized (retooled or twisted in order to assist and / or hinder) is rigged and therefore, anyone that profits from it (stock holders, salaried employees, DAs, L.E., plea millers, politicians - just to name a few) is considered a conspirator engaged in organized criminal activity. Sadly, the Feds are aware of the level of corruption in Texas and big money seems to have redirected them. They call it bribery for a reason.

WE WANT THE GODDAMN CRIMINALS TO BE CAUGHT. We want you to either cite and release those found with small amounts of crap and get them help. Stop filling the jails with non-criminals. Those with mental issues should be placed in one man cells monitored 24/7 with Plexiglas walls. In order to do this the Harris County voters need to be forced into action via being taxed an additional $5000. each annually. A Criminal Justice Specific Tax that allows the individual voter to actually see how much he / she pays towards the system (including any & all pay outs made to those lucky enough to be paid not to sue for their wrongful stint). Yes, packing them in like sardines is a crime and unusual to those that have never been in the H.C. Jail.

Once you are made aware of your personal financial contribution to a rigged system, you have you and only you to blame for your actions and / or your inactions.