HOUSTON, Texas — Several state lawmakers are hoping to bring some much-needed relief to Harris County criminal courts.
In a new bill they’re hoping will pass this special session, several state representatives are wanting to create three additional criminal courts to help alleviate the massive backlog that’s been created over the past few years.
Lawmakers only have six more days to get the job done, but since they’re still in special session, first, they say they need help from Gov. Greg Abbott to make the issue a priority.
From the devastating floods to the deadly pandemic, the recent years have wreaked havoc on the county’s criminal justice system.
So much so, its backlog has been blamed for contributing to an increase in crime.
“We need to stop releasing people on multiple felony bonds," CEO of Crime Stoppers of Houston Rania Mankarious said in July.
Several recent offenders have been out on bond when committing new crimes, like the man charged with killing 71-year-old Martha Medina. Her family marched for justice Wednesday.
“I know nothing is bringing her back but I hope to see a change and to be an inspiration to others," Lourdes Medina said.
But as the criminal courthouse gets a new upgrade on the outside, state lawmakers are hoping to bring big changes to the inside - one that will hopefully alleviate this issue.
“It creates three additional district criminal courts, which can handle felony cases," District 134 State Rep. Ann Johnson said.
Johnson said the new bill would add three criminal courts to Harris County to help break down that backlog.
“If we stay in our current set up, it will take us 15 years. If we add these courts, we can get out of this backlog in a little over two," Johnson said.
The judges would be appointed by Abbott, and the courts, for now, would be temporary but can become permanent.
Johnson said the bill has bipartisan support but has a higher chance of survival with help from Abbott.
“You can only solve this problem right now with the governor’s support," Johnson said.
Representatives sent him a letter Wednesday asking him to step in.
“You can’t have an issue and a discussion around bail and people being out on bond if you don’t address the fact that they can’t get their case to court," Johnson said.
We reached out to Abbott's office for a response to the letter. We will let you know when we hear back.