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Criminal Justice Campaign

The policy changes we’re fighting for:
Reform the Bail System: Low-risk, low-income defendants who have not yet been convicted of a crime should not remain in jail awaiting trial when they cannot afford bail.
♦ Defendants booked into the Harris County jail who are found by a Pretrial Services risk assessment tool to be low or medium risk should be eligible for release on personal recognizance bonds at magistration.
♦ Harris County Criminal Court at Law judges, as well as Harris County justice court and Houston municipal court judges, should order that all defendants charged with a misdemeanor(s) and no more serious offense are recommended for personal recognizance bonds absent written findings by the magistrate or trial judge for why such a bond should be denied.
♦ All defendants should be appointed counsel at their magistration hearings.

Implement Cite & Release: Texas law allows local law enforcement to issue citations instead of arrest and jail booking for certain misdemeanors, including marijuana possession, low-level theft, and driving with an invalid license, but Houston has not implemented such a cite-and-release policy. Taxpayers save millions by paying only for the adjudication costs, and the money saved can be used to solve crimes that truly threaten our safety and property.
♦ The Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff’s Department should implement a policy to utilize cite and release for all eligible offenses. (Class C misdemeanors and Class A and B misdemeanors enumerated under Tex. Code Crim. P. Art. 14.06).
♦ HPD and HCSO should work with Mayor Turner and the Harris County District Attorney to implement this policy. The Harris County district attorney should establish a policy that she/he will only accept cite-and-release eligible offenses when law enforcement followed the cite-and-release policy.

End Debtors Prison: Thousands of people are being jailed for fines that they cannot afford to pay in Class C misdemeanor cases.
♦ The Houston municipal courts, working with Mayor Turner and other city leaders, should stop committing people to jail for unpaid fines. The Harris County justice courts should do the same.
♦ Houston municipal courts and Harris County justice courts should determine defendants’ ability to pay at the beginning of each case and must provide early access to alternatives, such as affordable payment plans, community service, and/or waiver of the fines and costs for individuals who are indigent.
♦ Expand Public Defender’s office

End Ice Collaboration: The 287(g) program harms community trust in police and undermines all residents’ right to unbiased law enforcement. It also creates the atmosphere that leads to civil rights violations and racial profiling that primarily affect communities of color and immigrants.
♦ The Right to Justice campaign urges Harris County to terminate the 287(g) agreement with ICE and decline to renew it.
♦ Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s departments should stop making arrests on the basis of immigration warrants, detainers, or any other civil immigration document or removal order.
♦ Stop holding people on ICE detainers at HPD and County Sheriffs facilities.
♦ Prohibit ICE agents from questioning, apprehending, or holding individuals within HPD or county facilities without a valid criminal warrant.
♦ Provide a clear written policy that HPD and the Sheriff’s department will not inquire into the immigration status of anyone that they encounter.

Drug Diversion: Treatment instead of incarceration for individuals charged with low-level drug offenses would not only help those suffering from addiction, but also save money and conserve scarce police resources.
♦ The DA should support increased diversion from the street and at magistration hearings for those charged with low level drug offenses;
♦ The HPD, working with the DA and Mayor Turner, should establish a policy that encourages the diversion of those in possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance (a state jail felony) out of the county criminal justice system and support a program that allows for said offenders to be diverted to the Houston Recovery Center for case management.
♦ The DA should end the policy of only accepting pleas in drug cases after the crime lab has returned the drug test results and instead agree to personal bonds for all offenders charged with drug offenses pending lab results.

Police Accountability: Holding police accountable is important for maintaining the public’s “faith in the system”. Both individual police officers, as well as law enforcement agencies responsible for effectively delivering basic services of crime control and maintaining order, while treating individuals fairly and within the bounds of law.
♦ The City of Houston and Harris County should create and independent external oversight committees instituted at the city or county level with full investigatory powers into the police: access to relevant documents, subpoena power, ability to compel testimony. to their recommendations
♦ The City of Houston and Harris County should create processes that will successfully prosecute an officer or department for wrongdoing or misconduct.
♦ The City of Houston and Harris County Police should participate in sensitivity and de-escalation training.
Youth Justice: Criminalizing kids for minor misbehavior in our schools unnecessarily exposes them to our justice system which perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline.
♦ Harris County and the City of Houston should call for Houston-area districts to supplement TCOLE’s training with materials that instruct educators and police officers on best practices to reduce racial inequity in the administration of school discipline.
♦ The Harris County DA should reduce the number of certifications and determinate sentences sought for juvenile defendants. Prohibiting junior attorneys to seek certification or determinate sentences for juvenile cases and require any such cases be taken away from attorneys who lack experience in crimes with victims;
♦ Harris County should support legislation at the state capitol raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 in the state of Texas.
♦ Increase funding to public defenders office.

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