The Earl Carl Institute's Community Forum on Decriminalizing Poverty
Please join us at 10:00am on August 20, 2016 at Thurgood Marshall School of Law (3100 Cleburne, Houston Texas 77004) for The Earl Carl Institute's "Bail and Bonds, Fines and Fees: A Community Forum on Decriminalizing Poverty". Our distinguished panel will examine current practices in Harris County and across the State of Texas that criminalize poverty. According to a recent article in Buzzfeed, many courts across the State of Texas are "[j]ailing people simply for being too poor to pay traffic fines", a violation of Texas law and two unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decisions."
Additionally, we will explore the need for bail reform in Harris County. The Harris County bail reform system has long been under scrutiny. According to the Equal Justice Under Law, many are "jailed solely because they are too poor to make a monetary payment for their release. Across the country, people accused of even minor crimes are kept in a cage prior to their trial — despite our legal system’s guarantee that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — unless the person can pay an arbitrarily set amount of money to secure her or his release. The result is pretrial detention based on wealth-status, not any meaningful assessment of flight risk or danger to the community." Harris County's bail system created a "freedom in exchange for payment" or sit in jail until trial. The consequences of remaining incarcerated results in the loss of a job, overcrowding of jails and broken families.
Statistical examples of the criminalization of poverty include:
- 75% of Harris County Jail population has not yet been convicted. They are awaiting trial.
- In 2014, less than 2% of defendants in the Houston Municipal Courts were offered an alternative to paying their fees and fines.
- Texas law requires a 30% collection fee to be added to any delinquent fine owed to the state.
- There are over 60 different fees, totaling over $1,200, which can be assessed by the Harris County criminal courts.
- Over 62% of the inmates housed in county jails across Texas have not been convicted of the crimes they are being jailed for.
- National Association of Counties found that 60% of the detained population presents a low-risk of pretrial misconduct.
- ER Elizabeth Rossi
- BEH Barbara E. Hartle
Barbara E. Hartle
- SGT Sandra Guerra Thompson
Sandra Guerra Thompson
- MM Mary Moreno
- DGW Dr. Gerald Wheeler
Dr. Gerald Wheeler