Harris County officials argue the failure rates for sheriff-issued bonds put in place after a court injunction is proof a risk-based bail system works better than a financial one.
Since the injunction went into effect, the sheriff has issued about 6,000 unsecured bonds to low-risk offenders.
“Before the injunction, every single one of these individuals would have been kept in a jail just because they couldn't afford what to other people is a very small sum of money, just a few hundred dollars,” says Elizabeth Rossi, an attorney with Civil Rights Corps.
But the county claims more than 40-percent are missing their court hearings. Rossi blames Harvey flooding for causing confusion.
“This is just a red herring, the idea that the folks who are being released pursuant to the federal court order are eluding supervision,” says Rossi.
“The idea that people are being 'released by the sheriff' and that they're not supervised or don't have conditions, that is a policy decision of the county and the judges,” she says. “The judges can promulgate a bail schedule that says every single misdemeanor arrestee is going to be supervised by pretrial services.”
Both sides are awaiting a decision from a federal appeals court.