HOUSTON — The Texas Organizing Project or “TOP” protested outside the Harris County Jail Thursday demanding the release of a 66-year-old woman whose rights to a speedy trial, they say, were being violated. The organization later released a statement after it became clear that there was some miscommunication about the case.
Ida Whittaker was arrested nearly two years ago on a retaliation charge after she allegedly threatened her neighbor. Since then, she has been sitting in jail with no bond.
“We have one of our seniors in the Harris County Jail just sitting there, it could be my mother, it could be your mother so we demand, we demand that the DA and whoever, the judges do something today,” said Tarsha Jackson, of TOP.
Whittaker’s next court date isn’t until April 19, 2019. That’s too long, the demonstrators stressed.
“We are here to demand the district attorney to do either two things, give Ms. Whittaker a bond or dismiss this case. No one should be for nearly two years with a charge that can be handled outside of court,” Jackson said.
The organization later issued a statement after learning more facts about Whittaker’s case.
“Upon further investigation on the facts of this case, TOP learned that Ida Whittaker pled guilty and is currently on the waitlist for the state hospital where she will receive treatment. Once her competency is restored, she will be returned to Harris County where she will be sentenced to deferred adjudication. When she is released to the community with safe placement, the hope is that she gets the resources and services she needs.
“Texas Organizing Project acted out of concern for Ms. Whittaker’s well-being yesterday, however there was a misunderstanding of the facts. We apologize for this oversight.
“Nonetheless, Ms. Whittaker’s experience is a sad reminder that too many women and men are sitting in jail simply because there are not enough mental health services and drug treatment programs available to treat them. Along with District Attorney Ogg and Sheriff Gonzalez, we agree that these people should not be sitting in jails.”