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A poll about jailing people

Of interest.

New polling from The Appeal and Data for Progress shows that most Harris County residents support bail reform measures and want fewer people in the county’s overcrowded jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The polling shows 59 percent of residents in Harris County favor releasing people charged with low-level offenses. Support for that comes from 64 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans, according to the survey of almost 500 likely voters in Harris County.

The polling also found that 62 percent of people including 59 percent of Republicans, favor releasing people with less than six months left in their sentence.

In general, 65 percent of Harris County voters and two-thirds of Republican voters said they supported the use of ticking and citations as an alternative to jail.

The polling serves as proof that public opinion is firmly with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and other criminal justice reform advocates who have worked to overhaul the county’s cash bail system.

See here for more on the data. It’s meager, and I don’t see anything on the Data for Progress website to supplement it, so take it for what it is. As with all DfP polls, it was done via web panel, with 478 respondents. I point this out not because I think it’s a huge vindication of my own opinions, but because I’d really like to see a closer examination of these questions, and of the (frequently emotional rather than fact-based) arguments against them. I suspect that the potential to move these numbers, especially among partisans, is quite large, but we don’t know enough yet to say by how much. To the extent that we can have a thoughtful conversation about the costs and benefits of a policy to minimize the jail population along these lines, we should.

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One Comment

  1. Keep walking, people. No ideas in that poll would actually reduce the current Harris County Jail population. Why? The poll showed that 59% of Harris County residents supported releasing people charged with “low level” offenses. That local practice has, in fact, already been implemented. In accordance with Local Rule 9, almost all people charged with a misdemeanor (i.e. “low level”) offense are already being released from the Harris County Jail within ~48 hours of arrest. With all the low-level offenders being promptly released, about 96% of the current county jail population actually has some form of FELONY case.

    The poll also showed that 62% of the respondents favored releasing people with less than six months remaining on their sentence. This idea would also have almost no impact on reducing the Harris County Jail population since over 95% of the current jail population are in some form of PRE-TRIAL status (and/or have a BOPP hold). Of the relatively few sentenced inmates in the Harris County Jail, most are just waiting to be transferred to TDCJ or a court-ordered program.

    On my new website, HarrisCountyDemocrats.com, I posted some recommendations on how local officials could safely reduce the Harris County Jail population. For more information, I encourage everyone to go review those posts. Thanks.