Ending Misdemeanor Cash Bail
One's liberty should not be based on the amount of money they have in the bank.
In July 2019, a historic settlement agreement changed the Harris County misdemeanor bail system. Before then, those who committed misdemeanors and could not pay money bail, mainly communities of color, were kept behind bars awaiting their trials while those who could pay were released. In the lawsuit settlement, which was led by Commissioner Ellis and approved at Commissioners Court, a federal judge ruled that money bail was unconstitutional because it kept poor people behind bars while those with money were freed. Under the agreement, all misdemeanor defendants are guaranteed due process rights, and about 85% of people arrested on low-level misdemeanors will qualify for automatic, no-cash pretrial release. The agreement also included public defense services and safeguards to help ensure defendants show up for court. In September 2020, the first six-month report of the independent monitor in the case found that the reforms did not increase the risk of re-offending, individuals spent less time awaiting trial in jail, the average length of hearings more than doubled, and there was a decrease in racial inequities.
Public Safety that Protects Everyone