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State to help defend county bail policies

Of course it will.

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the top lawyers in five other states are backing Harris County in its protracted battle over money bail for poor low-level defendants, as the tally of those released on no-cash bail nears 1,000.

Paxton and the lead attorneys in Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska filed a joint brief late Monday supporting the county’s appeal of a federal court order that took effect three weeks ago eliminating cash bail for indigent misdemeanor defendants.


At a tense Harris County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, officials provided the clearest picture yet of the people released from impact of Rosenthal’s ruling. Nearly 980 people have been released by the sheriff under Rosenthal’s ruling as from June 6 through Friday, according to county’s office of budget management.

Of those, 40 people who were released on personal bonds had been arrested again by Friday and charged with new crimes, a rate of about 3 percent.

In the group of people who were able to afford cash bond — either through a bail bondsman or by posting cash — during the same time period, only about 1 percent had been re-arrested, county officials said.

The county’s arguments were countered in a lengthy hearing before Rosenthal that led to her order.


Paul Heaton, academic director of the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice and co-author of a study on Harris County’s criminal justice system, said the brief rehashes old arguments.

“The brief does demonstrate, however, that there are still important constituencies that have yet to be convinced of the need for bail reform,” he said. “Despite the significant progress in this area in states like New Jersey, Maryland, and Kentucky, and the mounting empirical evidence that cash bail systems can generate unwanted disparities and harm public safety — particularly when applied to low-level offenders — there are still many jurisdictions satisfied with the status quo that don’t want to change.”

Alec Karakatsanis, director of Civil Rights Corps, who represents ODonnell and the others who couldn’t afford bail, said Monday’s filing by the states’ attorneys echoed that stance.

“The amicus brief is a repeat of bail industry talking points that are entirely untethered to law and to fact,” he said.

I couldn’t find a copy of the Paxton brief, so you’ll have to rely on the story for what we know. Hard to know what else to make of this, or if the amicus brief will have any effect. Some days I wonder what it would be like to have an Attorney General who fights on the right side of an issue, any issue. Must be nice.

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    “Nearly 980 people have been released by the sheriff under Rosenthal’s ruling as from June 6 through Friday, according to county’s office of budget management.

    Of those, 40 people who were released on personal bonds had been arrested again by Friday and charged with new crimes, a rate of about 3 percent.”

    Looks like Kubosh was right. That’s 3% recidivism… LESS than a month, which equals to an annual recidivism rate of around 40+%

  2. Steve Houston says:

    Bill, if we are going to keep using cash bail as a means of holding people against their will, at least on the basis that some might commit crimes once released, why not do away with bail altogether? After all, there will always be a chance someone charged with a crime might actually be factually guilty and might even commit an unrelated offense again. You can even further your argument by pointing out that a percentage of them are not going to show up to their court hearings, though projecting based on such a short term example is pretty lame (statistically speaking at least).

  3. Bill Daniels says:


    We are trying to do two things with this RoR for e’erybody.

    First, we want to honor the Constitution:

    “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

    Second, we are trying to lower the cost of our criminal justice system by lowering the jail census.

    Somehow, we have arrived at a place where ANY kind of bail is excessive. One dollar is excessive. The title to someone’s TV and couch is excessive. Anything is excessive. That doesn’t seem to jibe with my reading of the Constitution, but then I’m not a lawyer or constitutional scholar.

    So OK, onward. We want to save money by lowering criminal justice costs. For the 40+% who go out and commit new crimes, we have just doubled the costs to the criminal justice system. Two arrests. Two trials. Two probation officers. Two jail or prison stays. We were trying to save money, but ended up spending more than we saved. This is what passes for fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers?

  4. Steve Houston says:

    Bill, you brandish that 40% as though it was taken from a proper longitudinal study when it was not. It could end up being better or worse but using a few days worth of data doesn’t make much sense. Otherwise, you seem to have jumped on the presumptive guilt bandwagon, the ACTUAL rate of 3% repeat offenders for those who couldn’t afford a bond. The flip side is that 1% who could make cash bonds during that same time frame were arrested again so using your logic, if we deny everyone bail for misdemeanor crimes (on the fantasy that there is enough jail space), we can save tons of money (except some get charged with additional crimes while in captivity).

    If the real goal of bail is to prevent people from breaking another law before trial, by all means let the 97%/99% that didn’t commit another low level crime sit in jail for months at a time on the concern that they might be one of the 3%/1%. If, on the other hand, the goal of bail in such cases is to make sure they show up to their appointed court times, and it’s wayyyy too early to project that number though the million+ cases of old traffic tickets Houston has accumulated and the similar amount from the county certainly show there’s a cost for trusting people, but pick your poison wisely.

    I’m not going to claim my experiences with poor people trump those of rich white lawyers that own bail companies, Mike and Paul have plenty of statistical data showing what percent of people they did business with failed to show up and probably those who were charged with subsequent crimes, but lacking enough jail space prevents the “no bail” scenario and common decency tells us that screwing up the lives of 97% of people in a group because 3%/1% go on to commit another low level crime (or be charged with one) that in most cases amount to nuisance crimes, is questionable. Besides, those same jail beds are used by those accused of serious crimes like rape, robbery, human trafficking, child abuse, etc. Do you really want to waste a limited resource on the petty stuff while hardcore crooks are getting multiple days credit and released prematurely? I sure don’t.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    The argument here misses what is really going on. From my experience of working in a jail, in another state, the way it goes is that a person gets arrested, can’t afford to bond out, can’t afford an attorney and sits and sits and sits in jail for two years or so. Then, the prosecutor offers them a plea deal for “time served,” so they take it, because they are going to get out in a month, although they are now a “felon,” who is ineligible for a lot of assistance programs, can’t vote and can’t get a lot of jobs. Meanwhile the prosecutor can show how they are tough on crime and get re-elected in a landslide. Of course, this is an inversion of how it should be, which is you get arrested and are presumed innocent. You have a trial, or plead guilty. You receive a just sentence and serve the sentence.

    The other trick that the cops and prosecutors have is, when they suspect someone of a crime, if that person is on probation, they can come up with a “technical violation.” Since that person is already convicted of something, the technical violation results in a warrant and they can be held indefinitely, until the police come up with enough evidence to charge them with the new crime. The entire justice system is a mess, maybe they can privatize it.

  6. Steve Houston says:

    Jason, since the discussion HERE is regarding bail for misdemeanor crimes, “the argument” doesn’t miss much. Given felons are allowed to serve only a small part of their sentence in exchange for getting out on some kind of probated sentence, most of us in the real world think they should avoid any violations of their release terms, “technical” or not. Otherwise let them serve day for day like they should be anyway.

  7. C.L. says:

    One day I ate a giant bowl of spagetti with a tasty marinara. It was delicious. About a month later I had roughly the same meal again…also delicious. Roughly two weeks passed and again, spagetti with marinara, and this time ? Indigestion. Henceforth, should I be afraid of feeeling bad 33% of the time, one out of every three spagetti meals I eat ? Probably not. @Bill… your prediction of a 40% recidivism rate based on data from June 6 thru last Friday would be laughed out of any group tasked with reviewing your findings. You’re better than that with your argument(s), typically.

  8. neither here nor there says:

    Bill your math and logic are faulty. 3% a month does not equal 40%. It will equal 3% a year. If you can’t figure that out I am not going to waste my time proving it to you.

    But I will give it one try. If you use your method in 3 years 120% of the persons released will commit a crime. How do more people than are released do that?

  9. Neither…

    That doesn’t even make sense.

    Everyone, enjoy the 4th and I hope that you are not hit by a d.w.i. person who was released on a p.r. bond.

  10. Steve Houston says:

    I join with PK and wish everyone a happy holiday, also wishing that none of you are hit by a DWI person that was released on a bond provided by his family’s company or any other bail company.

  11. Bill Daniels says:


    Most people that end up in the maw of the criminal justice system are repeat offenders. Obviously, of the original group released, the recidivism rate can’t go over 100%, but in terms of numbers of new crimes committed by that group, have you considered that these released on recognizance folks might get arrested more than once in the next three years?

    It will be interesting to keep following along with their criminal progress as the months and years go by.

    Having said that, I accept the criticism that the sample size and time elapsed really doesn’t give us enough data to really extrapolate on future crimes committed by the sample group. Damn, can’t get anything by this group!

    Oh, and for everyone here, how about a genuine, non snarky wish that everyone has a safe and happy 4th? “Cause that’s what I’m going to wish everyone here.

  12. Steve Houston says:

    Bill, if someone really wanted to be argumentative, you could say that someone constantly being re-arrested for various crimes could increase the number to over 100% but that would be a semantic game using a Mark Twain view of statistics. But given that;
    Using a Bureau of Justice Statistic study finding inmates released from state prisons have a five-year recidivism rate of 76.6%, the USSC study calculated comparable federal prisoners released have a 44.7% re-arrest rate after five years.
    (this was regarding felony crimes, not the misdemeanors we were discussing) Maybe giving those first timers charged with misdemeanors a one time break might not be such a bad idea or maybe considering their totality of circumstance might yield better results that what we’ve achieved enriching select groups? Just asking…

    And you’re right, we should all wish each other a safe and happy holiday. I admit my snarky comment was in direct response to the previous comment that seemed to suggest someone was more at risk for a DWI driver that had a PR bond over one that happened to make a bailsman some money. Happy holidays to all!

  13. neither here nor there says:

    Paul, I will give you an example

    Jan 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Feb 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Mar 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Apr 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    May 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Jun 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Jul 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Aug 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Sep 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Oct 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Nov 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%
    Dec 1000 released 30 commit crimes = 3%

    Year total = 12,000 Year released = 360 360 is 3% of 12,000

    We are not dealing with compound interest.

  14. Bill Daniels says:


    We are talking about just the first group (lets call them the Jail RoR graduates of June 6) that got released. In order for THAT group to have a 3% (actually closer to 4%) recidivism rate, then for the next 11+months, that means no more of that group got arrested. I took the liberty of assuming that each month, another 40 previously un-rearrested members of that alumni group would go on to be rearrested. You are telling us that every single member of that alumni group will not be rearrested in the next 11+months. I appreciate your optimism that this group of offenders will all go straight.

  15. neither here nor there says:

    Bill, you don’t know math or basic logic. The first thing is your assumption is not correct, it cannot be correct.

    Based on your assumption 100% of the release prisoners will commit another crime, by the way not all crimes are equal. We are writing about misdemeanors.

    month 1) 40
    5)40 and so on, your assumption will at some point hit 100%.

    Will some of the other in the first batch released commit other crimes, probably but one can’t assume that will equal 4%. If you believe what you do why not lock up everybody and throw away the keys and let them die in jail. Have you ever committed a crime and just not got caught? Taken a tool or other property from an employer or client? A pen, paper clip, etc, that is theft. a misdemeanor. Ever driven while drunk? While high? Gotten high on some illegal drugs? Ever vandalized property while a youngster? How many Jesus Christs are among us?

    Like I stated in the beginning I did not think I could prove your assumption wrong because of limitations.

    My assumption is that the world will end in 40 days, can I prove it?