Courts Adopt New Risk Assessment in Harris County

Still facing a federal lawsuit over its bond system, the Harris County courts have adopted a new risk assessment tool for defendants.

Officials believe "Public Safety Assessment" will help judges better understand what kind of a risk non-violent offenders are.

“We're looking for if they're going to be a risk to appear in court, if they're going to be a risk to commit new criminal activities should they be released during a pretrial stage,” says Kelvin Banks, Harris County's director of pretrial services.

The county is trying to address criticism that poor people are stuck in jail because they cannot afford bail. However, Banks insists this new program was in the works long before a judge ruled the system unconstitutional.

Harris County has since appealed the ruling.

“If there is elevated violence, it will give us a violent flag either yes or no,” he says.  “The other risk indicators are a failure to appear score one to six, and a new criminal activity score of one to six.”

Those deemed less risky will be allowed to go home in some shape or form.

“It could require frequent contact with pretrial services, or conditions of a house arrest and or electronic monitoring depending on the risk,” says Banks.

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