Houston Lawyer/Legislator Making Push for Jail Reforms

A recent article published by the Houston Press details the ongoing battle between Texas bail bond industry and Houston Sen. John Whitmire over the senator’s proposed reforms to prevent nonviolent offenders from remaining in jail simply because they cannot afford to post bond. Whitmire is a lawyer and Chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which recently met to discuss potential solutions for the state’s overcrowded jail system. 

During the meeting, Whitmire specifically focused on Houston jails, where 70 percent of the approximately 9,000 inmates have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial. The senator delivered a sharp rebuke to the bail bond industry, saying bail bondsmen often allow nonviolent-offender clients to languish in jail in hopes that a family member will be able to secure a high-risk loan to pay their bond.

At least some in the industry do not agree with the Senator.  Glenn Strickland, vice chairman of the Harris County Bail Bond Board, told the Houston Press that those who can’t afford a $500 or $1,000 bond should remain in jail because their inability to borrow enough money from a relative or friend means they “in all probability burned everyone they've come in contact with. They're just those kinds of people.”

There are many side issues and back stories percolating behind this ongoing debate – from concerns about how bail bondsmen conduct their business to why courts in some Texas counties regularly allow personal recognizance bonds and others do not. But the underlying issue that Whitmire is attempting to address – whether non-violent offenders should remain in jail simply because they are poor – is an example of lawyers who work in the justice system trying to improve the justice system.    

Posted: 11/6/2015 9:32:42 AM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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