HOUSTON — Getting arrested is never a fun experience. And a civil lawsuit against Harris County claims the bail bond system for those people facing minor charges doesn’t just suck — it’s unconstitutional!
Bail is supposed to make sure defendants show up to court. If they can’t pay it, often times defendants sit in jail until their case comes up.
“It doesn’t make any sense that bail ought to ever be an issue for somebody with a minor misdemeanor. Most people are working on jobs where they can not miss a day and it’s almost guaranteed that they are going to lose their job,” NAACP Houston Chapter President James Douglas said.
The NAACP has spoken out, criticizing Harris County is defending itself against the lawsuit. An estimated $170,000 has been spent on outside counsel to defend the county, and now the judges named in the suit are asking for more.
Many think tax money should be better used.
Sarah Guidry is the executive director of the Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Policy at Texas Southern University. She said, “We have clients that have taken pleas, when they were not guilty because they were facing, had already been in jail nine months.”
Guidry said one easy fix would be releasing those who can’t pay on their own recognizance.
“What is some lady going to do with three or four kids on a minor misdemeanor?” Douglas said.
One county is hiring more public defenders to have them available at bail hearings, but that option hasn’t been too popular either.
Harris County commissioners will meet next week to discuss the judges’ request for more money.