New program in Harris Co. aims for more efficient and fairer legal system

People arrested in Harris County could be released much earlier than before because of a new program designed to make the legal system more efficient and fairer.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas- People arrested in Harris County could be released much earlier than before because of a new program designed to make the legal system more efficient and fairer.

The program is the result of about three years worth of work after officials claimed the old system was outdated.

The county has been working with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's criminal justice initiative.

They reviewed 1.5 million cases to develop a new public safety assessment (PSA). It asks things like if the current offense is violent or if the person failed to appear at a pretrial hearing. It doesn't consider such things as gender or level of education.

"The old assessment was largely focused on ties to community which isn't necessarily predictive of risk of failure to appear or undue violent criminal act, so this is very different than what we are used to," said Robin Brown, a misdemeanor court judge. 

So, if someone is arrested at an outlying facility and the new PSA gives that person a low score, he or she could be out in six to eight hours and never have to be transported to the central jail downtown for processing. Pre-trial services still have to be reported the next business day for further assessment.

Under the new system, if someone scores high, even if they have a lot of money, they may not be able to post bond and get out quickly. The idea is to better equalize judicial treatment and to make the jail system more efficient.

This weekend, Harris County became the first county in Texas to use this new system.

 

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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