Harris County

Texas Jail is Accused of Keeping Inmates Imprisoned Due to Poverty

By Peek & Toland on August 4, 2016

The Harris County Jail in Houston is the largest in Texas and the third largest in the country. A recent report suggests its population is over-inflated because it’s jailing people who are in a poverty trap.

A recent article in Think Progress makes for alarming reading. It details how the jail is the subject of a lawsuit brought by individuals who claim it is detaining people who are too poor to pay bail without bothering to assess whether they can afford it.

Poverty is keeping prisoners incarcerated in Houston

Poverty is keeping prisoners incarcerated in Houston

As Texas criminal defense attorneys who work hard for the jail release of our clients, we are alarmed to read about these potentially unconstitutional practices.

One of the inmates who filed a lawsuit against Harris County Jail is Maranda Lynn O’Donnell. Her crime was of a minor nature.  She was arrested for allegedly driving with an invalid license a few months ago. She said that arrest led her to be incarcerated for two days at the jail, removing her from her four-year-old daughter and her new job at a restaurant.

She would have been able to leave the jail immediately if she had more money. As it was, her poverty kept her behind bars, reported Think Progress. This was not an isolated case.

Poverty and the Harris County Jail

The article also cited the case of 26-year-old Robert Ryan Ford, a young man with no job and no bank account who was told he had to pay $5,000 to get out following his arrest on May 18.

The Think Progress article said as many as 77 percent of inmates are in the jail because they can’t afford to pay bail of $5,000 or even less. Alarmingly, in the six years from 2009 to 2015, 55 people died in the Harris County Jail because they could not afford bail.

Often those who remain inside have not considered hiring a bail bond lawyer. However, an attorney can be a key figure in securing your release.

Securing bail depends on factors including the severity of the crime, safety of victims and the community, and the ability of the accused to make the bail. It seems that defendants who are accused of relatively minor crimes and are not a danger to the public are being held for unacceptably long periods in the Harris County Jail.

If you are seeking a bail bond attorney in Houston, Austin or elsewhere in Texas, you should contact us today for a consultation.

Posted in Jail Release

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Sheriff in Houston Backs Programs to Deport Illegal Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on May 23, 2016

Deportation is a harrowing process that can split families apart. Although deportations are less common now in Texas than a few years ago, one sheriff has incurred the anger of local activities by supporting jail programs that work with immigration officials to deport undocumented immigrants who are convicted of crimes.

Last month Breitbart reported how Ron Hickman, the sheriff of Harris County, is supporting the controversial program in the face of opposition.

Notwithstanding his cooperation with the program, Hickman met representatives of United We Dream, an anti-deportation group, last month.  Immigration lawyers and other members of the Houston community were also at the meeting.

Plans to deport undocumented inmates in Houston spark protest

The program in question is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program 287(g). Harris and Carrollton police departments are signed up in Texas.

The program allows law enforcement officers to identify inmates who are not lawfully in the country when they are in the Harris County jail. Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can then detain and possibly deport them on their release.

The Breitbart report said of about 120,000 inmates held annually in the Harris County penal system, 1,831 individuals were detained by ICE officials in 2015, representing about 1.5 percent of the jail’s population.  However, only 167 inmates who were detained in the jail on criminal charges were ultimately deported.

Houston Public Media reported that Harris will be reviewing the program in June.  Hickman pointed out at a recent meeting of the Harris County Commissioners that it is not a “high volume activity,” and an average of about nine people a month were deported from January of 2015 to September of the same year under the ICE program.

Deportations were rampant in the United States before President Obama announced his “deferred action” plans in 2012. An article in Fortune.com described how Obama earned himself the nickname of “deporter in chief” during his first term of office as he removed about 400,000 noncitizens every year — more than any administration in U.S. history. Read more on our website about deferred action.

Although mass deportations are less common than a few years ago, the existence of the 287 (g) program in Houston and elsewhere, demonstrates how targeting of inmates is still taking place.

If you or a loved one is facing possible deportation or any other immigration nightmare, you should consider contacting our experienced Texas deportation defense attorneys today at (512) 474-4445 or see our questions and answers about deportation.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal

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