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Harris County Criminal Court’s Relentless Abuse of the Poor Must Stop Now

May 6, 2017

For years Harris County Criminal Court Judges have systematically denied PR bonds. The judges’ actions have created untold hardships for Harris County’s poor. 

Unable to make a surety bond and denied a PR bond, the poor find themselves locked up on non-violent misdemeanor charges.  In court, the poor are given a Hobson’s choice. They can plead guilty and get out of jail sooner or they can fight their case and stay in jail longer.
No one likes to stay in jail, (notwithstanding the County’s patently absurd arguments to the contrary). So, the poor elect to plead guilty to get out of jail sooner. In our  Harris County Criminal Courts  the poor plead guilty to obtain their liberty. A system that requires poor people to plead guilty to obtain their liberty is a system of injustice.

For many years, We have asked the Harris County Criminal Court Judges to stop their systematic denial of PR bonds. With one recent exception, the judges have consistently ignored our entreaties.

 After hearing weeks of testimony, Federal District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal has issued an injunction against the County. The injunction requires the County to immediately stop their systematic denial of PR bonds.  Per Judge Rosenthal’s order, the County  must immediately begin granting PR bonds. 

Harris County has fought  the injunction. According to the  Chronicle, the County  has already spent $2.85 million fighting this case. Now the County contemplates appealing Judge Rosenthal’s order. 

Harris County Commissioners stand poised to approve the appeal. This is wrong and outrageous.  Our Harris County Criminal Court Judges have perpetuated this  unfair system for too long. Now they want to spend more of our tax dollars fighting to maintain their abusive system.  The abuse of the poor by Harris county criminal courts  must stop. 

As they expect us to address them as “Your Honor”, they should act with honor. They should obey the Federal Court order and immediately stop the systematic denial of PR bonds. They should at long last abolish their foul “Plea Mill”. 

It’s time for Justice to prevail in this fight. Harris County Criminal Courts have abused the poor far too long. 

Robb Fickman , Houston, Texas 

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