HOUSTON — The official order releasing roughly 1,000 Harris County Jail inmates became effective Wednesday at 2 p.m.
In the order, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo ordered Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to compile a list of inmates eligible for release. The releases will begin later this week.
Hidalgo said the drastic action is necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
She called the jail a “ticking time bomb” with one confirmed case and more than two dozen inmates in quarantine with suspected cases.
"New cases will spread like wildfire if we don't take quick action," Hidalgo said Tuesday.
Sheriff Gonzalez said it’s for the “greater good.”
“As #COVID19 spreads, it has become equally important for all of us to ask what steps are being taken to protect the health of people in jails, the staff who work in them and the general public,” Gonzalez tweeted Wednesday. “No perfect solutions exist, but they are for the greater good of the public at large.”
Hidalgo’s order says only inmates who meet these qualifications are eligible for release.
1. Has not previously been convicted of a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence
2. Is not currently arrested for a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence that is supported by probable cause
3. Is not the subject of any protective order, including a Magistrate’s Order of Emergency Protection
4. Is not being held on one or more charges of DWI (3rd or more) burglary (habitation), which are exceptions to the release of detainees held on non-violent charges.