Felony Bail in Harris County

In this presentation, presented to the Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on March 11, 2021, I lead a team of analysts in the Harris County Justice Administration Department to show the limited changes to felony bail practice in Harris County, and how those changes don’t map onto crime increases.

We trace evidence from years of data on bond issuance and criminal case details in Harris County to make these claims. The presentation shows that changes in misdemeanor bail policy have, largely, not extended to the felony level.

  • First, the presentation shows that bail reform has reduced wealth-based detention for low-level, non-violent felony defendants, especially those facing drug charges.
  • Second, the presentation presents evidence that policy practice around felony bail amounts has, if anything, become more restrictive in recent years.
  • Finally, the presentation audits recent claims that felony bail practice can be connected to prominent cases of violent crime in Harris County.

Impact

  • This presentation was submitted to the March 11 meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
  • The presentation is part of a broader effort to support Harris County ending wealth-based detention, and to show the benefits to public safety gained by doing so.

The Report

You can find the presentation I gave here.

Above

Emphasis that changes in felony bail practice (almost exclusively) have been confined to Harris County’s treatment of low-level felony drug defendants.

Colin Cepuran Written by:

Colin Cepuran is a political scientist and a policy analyst working in Houston, TX.