Jan. 28, 2020 — University of Houston Law Center Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson will join elected criminal justice officials in discussing the new pre-trial bail reform policy and the general state of justice in Harris County during a town hall meeting Feb. 6.
Chief U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal in 2017 struck down the policy of jailing misdemeanor defendants awaiting trial if they were unable to post bond. The county’s appeal was denied and an agreement for procedures to release eligible defendants on personal recognizance bonds was reached in 2019.
“The Harris County bail lawsuit settlement is a truly historic agreement that ends the practice of jailing nonviolent people arrested on low-level offenses simply because they are too poor to pay a cash bail,” said Thompson, Newell H. Blakely Professor of Law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center. “The decision makes sense as a policy matter in reducing needless suffering, saving taxpayer dollars, and keeping the public safe.
“The town hall provides an opportunity for the public to learn more about the new rules and hear directly from county officials about early results.”
Thompson will explain the agreement followed by a panel discussion on how the new policy is implemented with three Harris County officials, District Attorney Kim Ogg, Sheriff Edward Gonzales, and Judge Darrell Jordan, chief of the Criminal Courts at Law. All four were active in supporting the bail reform effort. Cynthia Cole, executive director of Local 1550 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, will serve as moderator.
The town hall, hosted by the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice, will begin at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 6, at Talento Bilingüe de Houston, 333 South Jensen Dr.