Harris County agreed to reform bail practices that keep poor people in jail. Will it influence other Texas counties?
Commissioners approved a settlement aiming to end yearslong litigation over Harris County's misdemeanor bail system. Similar lawsuits in Dallas and other Texas cities also target how bail is set for people charged with felonies.
BY JOLIE MCCULLOUGH
Harris County officials agreed Tuesday to settle a federal lawsuit over how it sets bail for criminal defendants, a case Commissioner Rodney Ellis said was “as big as Brown v. Board of Education.”
The vote by the commissioners court in Texas’ most populous county marks a notable step to ending the yearslong litigation over its bail practices, which were deemed unconstitutional in federal courts. Judges have held that the county’s pretrial system discriminated against poor misdemeanor defendants, and although changes have been in the works for years and a new wave of Democratic judges dramatically altered bail practices in January, the lawsuit remains open.