More pre-trial diversion

DA Kim Ogg moves forward on more campaign promises.

Kim Ogg

During a press conference Tuesday, Ogg laid out in broad strokes the policy recommendations written by the committees and emphasized that she is seeking participation from experts and Houston’s leaders.

“We listen to the community,” she said, flanked by about 30 volunteers including former HPD Chief C. O. Bradford and Thurgood Marshall School of Law professor Lydia D. Johnson. “We are evidence-based and data driven, but it is important to know how the community wants tax dollars spent to enhance public safety.”

Ogg released the full reports from committees on officer-involved shootings, evidence integrity, equality, immigration, bail-bond reform, mental health and diversity.

Many of the reforms proposed using technology and data more efficiently to streamline the criminal justice system, such as moving to a paperless district attorney’s office or using evidence-based risk assessments to determine bail amounts.

Tarsha Jackson, the Harris County Director with the Texas Organizing Project, was on the bail bond committee and applauded Ogg for involving people with different backgrounds, some with conflicting interests.

“It was a tug of war,” Jackson said of her committee that included a bail bondsman and a representative of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “We had deep debate on what the district attorney can do in regard to bail reform, about what’s possible. And the final results were some good policies that she can implement.”

You can see the committee reports here. The themes all came from the campaign, and however you feel about the conclusions, I’d hope we can all respect a process that involved a broad spectrum of stakeholders who worked together across a range of perspectives. The Press read through the reports so you don’t have to.

Among the most noteworthy is the passing mention that Ogg’s administration “will work with all of the Harris County Law Enforcement agencies” to implement cite and release “for appropriate misdemeanor crimes,” which was not mentioned during the press conference. This has been a topic of debate for years, if not a full decade, after the Texas Legislature authorized police in 2007 to issue citations for various small-time crimes rather than arresting people and hauling them to jail. It’d be like getting a traffic ticket, then going to court for it later. It applies to crimes such as driving with an invalid license, criminal mischief, graffiti and possession of less than four ounces of pot (Ogg already diverts most pot cases).


Also noteworthy are plans to expand mental health diversion. Staci Biggar, a Houston defense attorney who was on Ogg’s mental health transition team panel, said that the idea was to transition people charged with low-level crimes like trespassing, often related to a person’s mental illness, away from jail and into treatment. Rather than asking for money to fund a program, she said judges can still issue pretrial diversion contracts to mentally ill defendants and individualize the terms based on that person’s needs.

“The idea is placing more people on bond and placing them in facilities, making pretrial conditions be to go see a particular health provider, or maybe they need to stay in a particular living situation,” Biggar said. “They can order somebody to see a doctor and they can order somebody to be treated by one organization. If you take a misdemeanor [defendant] and maybe that’s the first or second time they’re arrested, yes, you’ve been arrested, but we’ll drop the charges if you go and do these various things. It shouldn’t be that we wait until you’re really, really in trouble before there’s a stronger intervention for mental health.”

Other noteworthy nuggets from the eight transition team reports include the end to hiking bail to sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for suspected undocumented immigrants; vetting expert witnesses in capital murder cases more extensively and never “expert shopping”; and releasing to the public body-cam footage of officer-involved shootings as long as it does not impede an ongoing investigation — among various recommendations from the officer-involved shooting panel headed by former Houston police chief C.O. Bradford.

As Ogg says, you can judge her by her results in 2020. I think she’s off to a great start.

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6 Responses to More pre-trial diversion

  1. Kuffner,

    I know I give you a lot grief. However, it is posts like these that keep us informed. I would have missed this if it wasn’t for you. Thank you for your diligence. While we disagree on issues I never doubt that you just want a better world for your children to live in. We both have the same end goals. I hope you have a good week.

  2. I guess the lawyers at the DA’s office can’t figure out how to fund pretrial diversion programs.

    Google the billions in sales and property tax loopholes?

    Do a feasibility study on a county public bank?

    Hire smarter lawyers for the DA office?

  3. Thanks, Paul. Hope the same for you.

    Joe, clearly this is another office you will need to run for to make everything work the way you think it should.

  4. Charles,

    I’d interview with you but seeeing as how everything is already explained on my website. I see no need.

    Let me know when you decide to start asking 2018 county candidates and 2019 city council candidates real questions.

  5. C.L. says:

    Joe, when you start getting more than 10% of the votes in an election, we all may start paying more attention to your website’s stated positions. As an example, I’m wondering how exactly you’d be able to make Community College ‘free to everyone’.

  6. CL,

    Just ask the other republic states that have done it.

    Maybe if michael kubosh and amanda edwards were a little brighter they could google tax loopholes like i did and advocate for them to be closed.

    Seeing as how im the only democratic candidate on the ballot, so far, for prct 2.

    I’ll probably get at least 30-40% of the total vote without any money or endorsements.

Comments are closed.