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Garcia’s agenda

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia lays out his agenda on the op-ed pages.

This is an opportunity for me to work with every stakeholder in the Harris County justice system — including, first of all, you — to make sure that we do what is sensible and correct. It will take consensus, thought and hard work to get this right. I can embrace reforms that make sense to the citizens of Harris County, and such reforms should include guiding principles such as these:

**  Programs to release inmates early must provide for the ability to monitor them to the end of their sentences.

** Policies should address how we deal with mentally ill and/or homeless inmates once they are discharged. We should consider using existing county facilities for housing and treatment programs.

** Policies should preserve the rights and privileges of crime victims.

However, to achieve reform we will need to address obstacles that are well-documented. More than half of our inmates have not been convicted of the current charge against them and instead are waiting for trial or a plea bargain or dismissal of the charges. A significant share of those people are in jail because they are unable to make bail on charges such as drug possession or other crimes that do not directly involve violence.

Law enforcement, prosecutors and defense lawyers must work toward a new consensus on whether nonviolent, first-time offenders should be released from jail pending the disposition of their criminal cases regardless of whether they can post cash bonds; whether some low-risk “pre-trial” inmates can be confined to their homes instead, assuming the monitoring technology for ankle bracelets and other devices is reliable, tamper-proof and works in real time.


We also know, from reports such as the one issued last month by the independent Justice Management Institute, that 90 percent of inmates diagnosed as mentally ill have cycled through our system multiple times — and that most of our inmates have abused drugs. Diverting these inmates to treatment programs rather than jail could eventually help Harris County save money and become safer at the same time.

Lots of good stuff in there, the sorts of things that have needed attention for a long time. This is why we elected Adrian Garcia, and I’m glad to see him make the case for his agenda. I look forward to seeing it get done. Hopefully, he’ll have more cooperation from county government than President Obama has had from Congress. Stace has more.

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  1. […] know Sheriff Adrian Garcia has a plan to fix problems with the Harris County jails. He’s been up front about what he wants to do, and he’s helped create the position of “jail czar”, […]