The Houston Chronicle reported this month that a judge in Harris County, Texas upheld bail reform efforts aimed at relieving the financial burden placed on low-level offenders by releasing them on no-cash bonds. A group of bail bond companies argued that the reform efforts would hurt their businesses, but the judge denied their claim. This ruling marks a significant win for the bail reform movement and Civil Rights Corps, an Art for Justice grantee, played a role in this victory.
The recently-enacted reform rules would reduce the number of defendants jailed – simply because they cannot afford bail.
“You got money, you can get out of jail. If you don’t, you stay there,” Allan Van Fleet, a lawyer representing the judges, explained of the current system. “All kinds of bad things happen — you lose your job, you lose your car, you plead out to things you didn’t do just to get out of jail.”
Reform efforts have been ongoing since civil rights groups began litigation in 2016; however, they only recently went into effect after a slate of new judges were swept into office following the November 2018 elections.