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Harris County’s punitive new Bond Schedule or The Meaning of Harris County 

Friends-For years Harris County created its own jail overcrowding problem. Part of this problem was created by the Harris County Criminal courts’ systematic denial of PR bonds. 
Harris County has never been shy about locking up as many Pretrial detainees as possible. When we ran out of jail space in Harris county we sent prisoners to Louisiana to be housed. When that wasn’t enough, the County tried, but failed, to persuade the voters to build even more jails. 
Notwithstanding the fact Harris county created its own jail overcrowding problem, The County, cynically applied for  a 2 million dollar MacArthur Grant -to solve its jail overcrowding problem. And Harris County won the grant. Thus, Harris County was paid grant money to solve a problem that Harris County created. If ever there was a case of rewarding bad behavior, this was it. And If that wasn’t bad enough, the county took the grant money, apparently with absolutely no intention of ever solving its jail overcrowding. To the contrary, the county has done everything in its power to maintain its jail overcrowding. 

While Harris County maintained its jail overcrowding, A federal lawsuit was filed to force the county criminal judges to grant PR bonds.The Honorable Lee Rosenthal did the right thing and ruled for the plaintiffs. The result was the County was ordered to grant PR bonds to the poor on some misdemeanors. Judge Rosenthal’s Federal order apparently did not sit well with the good ole boys who run this county. Harris County Judges made no secret that they didnt want some Federal Judge mucking around in their system. Harris County didnt want some federal judge slowing down its well-oiled wheels of injustice. Screw the federal judge, the county would have the last word. 

On June 8, 2017, just after Judge Rosenthal’s order went into effect, this disgraceful, vindictive, retaliatory, punitive, unsupported new felony bond schedule went into effect. ( See New Bond Schedule Below) In Bold print, this new Felony Bond Schedule announces,  ” We are Harris County and we Will Not Be forced to be just! We prefer to be small-minded and mean”

Upon reflection, There are perhaps three motivations for this new Bond Schedule and it’s timing. 
First, make no mistake, this is Harris County Courts saying “Screw You” to the Honorable Lee Rosenthal. It’s the Courts’ way of saying, “the Good ole Boys still run the show over here.” It’s their way of once again demonstrating that no matter how intelligent they may be, they will not be enlightened. 
Second, this is the Harris County Courts way of keeping the accused in jail. Why will the accused be stuck in jail ? Well, just look at the outrageous new bond amounts. Many people, accused of felonies will not have the money to post bond. What becomes of these presumptively innocent accused citizens? What always happens when people are locked up and given an opportunity to get out if they will plead guilty? What happens is people will plead guilty to obtain their liberty without regard to whether or not they actually are guilty. I have said it before and I will say it again, It’s a sick system that coerces potentially innocent people into pleading guilty to obtain their liberty. Thus, the detestable Harris County Plea Mill is not dead; the Plea Mill has just moved upstairs to the District Courts. Frankly, this is far worse than what we had before. Now, more people will plead guilty to felonies to obtain their liberty. That means, thanks to this miserable new bond schedule, the odds have increased that more innocent people will plead guilty to felonies, just to get out of jail. 

Third, this is speculative, but there are cozy relations between some judges and some bondsmen. Perhaps, the new felony bond schedule is a “bondsmens’ relief fund”. Perhaps It’s meant to make up for the $ the bondsmen might, but won’t lose as a result of the court ordered misdemeanor PR bonds. With the new bond schedule The bondsmen won’t lose money because their fees on felonies have all mostly doubled. Either way, Raising Bond amounts to keep bondsmen flush is not a valid reason to raise bonds. 
Who will be victimized by this ham-handed, vindictive mean-spirited, baseless new Bond Schedule? Who do you think? The presumptively innocent, will be the victims of this new bond schedule. More innocent men and women will be detained. 

Shame on Harris County’s latest attack on liberty and justice. I hope the Federal Court deals with this and forces Harris County Judges to do the right thing. Bond is to ensure attendance at court. It is not to be used in a punitive manner. You would NEVER know that in Harris County Texas.

Robb Fickman, Houston 

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