Advocates say Harris County Jail keeps poor defendants too long

In this Dec. 10, 2013 photo inmates hang out on their bunks in a new unit in the Harris County Jail for gay, bisexual and transgender inmates in Houston. Harris County processes some 125,000 inmates annually. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
In this Dec. 10, 2013 photo inmates hang out on their bunks in a new unit in the Harris County Jail for gay, bisexual and transgender inmates in Houston. Harris County processes some 125,000 inmates annually. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON, Texas (KXAN) — The biggest county in Texas is working to reform its bail system.

Criminal Justice Reform advocates allege the current system unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long.

A study in July by the University of Pennsylvania law school found more than 50 percent of misdemeanor defendants in Harris County are detained until the conclusion of their case.

Many can’t afford to pay their bail. In November, instead of using a set bail schedule, judges will start using an algorithm to help ensure low-risk defendants don’t remain in jail.

Harris County Jail reforming bail system

The algorithm considers nine factors, including age, prior convictions, the severity of the offense and whether they appeared for court in other cases. It does not consider race, gender, past drug use, nationality or income.

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