HARRIS COUNTY, WHERE PR BONDS  ARE DENIED AND THE POOR ARE CRUSHED SO THAT THE JUDGES MIGHT HAVE TIDY DOCKETS 

Friends

Harris County Officials are attempting to win a grant related to the administration of the criminal justice system. I believe the grant will be awarded to the government entity that is doing something innovative.

The question is posed: if the judges in Harris County began to systematically grant PR bonds would that be “innovative”? I believe that it would be far more than innovative.

The judiciary purposely denies PR bonds. They do this with the knowledge the accused will face the Hobson’s choice of pleading guilty to get out of jail or pleading not guilty and staying in jail. 
The judiciary knows very well that by denying PR bonds the majority of accused will plead guilty. The judiciary purposely denies PR Bonds to move their dockets. For years the judiciary has placed expediency over justice. They have for years perpetuated a system that is a farce. They have for years perpetuated a system that saddled tens of thousands of our fellow Houstonians with unnecessary criminal records. Based on any objective standard, the judiciary’s concerted conduct is nothing short of criminal. Indeed the county court judges have conspired to coerce pleas with the aid of others.
While it might not be “innovative”, the systematic granting of PR bonds would represent a seismic change in our corrupt system. 
Currently the county judges grant PR BONDS to ~ 9% of the accused while the district courts grants PR bonds to only 1% of the accused. 
Based on Pretrial services own risk assessment calculations the county court judges should be granting at least 3 times the PR bonds they are currently granting. If the judges granted PR BONDS to 27-30% of those accused of misdemeanor offenses there would be a dramatic improvement in the quality of justice afforded the poor. 
Rather than being forced to plead guilty, released on a PR bond, the poor could fight their cases. Many of these cases would be dismissed and many would win at trial. The Plea Mill as we know it would come to a halt.

While it might not be “innovative” for the judges to grant PR bonds, I can assure you that it would be one of the most positive and dramatic changes in our system in the last 30 years.
Regrettably, I do not believe this change is coming. I believe it is far more likely that the judges will talk about change but not truly implement it. 
The judges mistakenly rate themselves based on the size of their docket. That’s a mistake because they should rate themselves on the quality of justice afforded in their court.
 In the judges’ minds the smaller the docket the better they are doing. The judges rely on the Plea mill to keep their dockets small. In fact Harris County’s shameful history shows that the judiciary would rather deny PR BONDS and sacrifice poor people to maintain the plea mill, than do the right thing. 

Perhaps the judges will turn over a new leaf. After watching them crush the poor for three decades, I would be pleased if they finally saw the light. 
Robb Fickman, Houston 

About Robert Fickman

Robert Fickman is a criminal defense attorney with 33 years experience in defending the citizen accused in both state and federal court. He is a past president of HCCLA and remains active in its mission.

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