Harris County Court Backlog Reaches Critical Status That Could See Felons Back on Katy Streets
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards states that the Harris County Jail has reached non-compliance status due to severe overcrowding. The Sheriff’s Office now has less than 30 days to present a solution. Some authorities fear the release of felons that could greatly impact Katy communities.
Harris County, one of the three counties that makes up Katy, continues to see a steady increase in crime. Now Harris County Jail has met non-compliance status set by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Possible solutions could impact Katy and add to ongoing crime concerns.
“There is always a possibility that in order to alleviate overcrowding at the Jail a release could be ordered, which means defendants charged with crimes committed in the Katy area that should be in custody will be back in the community,” says Andy Kahan, director of Victims Services and Advocacy at Crime Stoppers Houston.
The Sheriff’s Office now has less than 30 days to submit a corrective action plan.
Since 2017 the backlog of criminal cases has skyrocketed due to Hurricane Harvey when the storm created major structurer damage to the courthouse building. Then that backlog continued to grow through the pandemic.
“Hopefully this latest ruling regarding the overcrowding jail will prompt our felony district cout judges to start working seven days a week including holding night court to start alleviating the backlog,” says Kahan. “A majority of the pre-trail defendants in Harris County Jail are awaiting disposition on felony charges.”
For the first time the jail population has exceeded 10,000 inmates.
There are currently 10,343 people housed in the jail, while an additional 597 have been sent to a jail in La Salle Parish, La. Harris County recently signed a contract to begin housing up to 600 more people at a jail facility in Garza County.
Telemedicine is being used to expedite medical and mental health screenings. While Harris County Commissioners Court has made investments to address the criminal courts case backlog, the problem still persists.
“It is in everyone’s best interest including the defendants to get these cases to court expeditiously instead of languishing around for years,” says Kahan.
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