Concerns raised over new Harris County bail system

HOUSTON – Some county leaders and officials with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are raising concerns about new bail procedures implemented as the result of a federal court order. The order comes as the county is in the midst of fighting a lawsuit that argues Harris County’s bail system is unconstitutional.

“To get justice costs money; it's not free,” said Gilbert Cruz.

Cruz spent two months in jail because he couldn't afford bail on a misdemeanor charge of interfering with the duties of a public servant. Cruz refused to plead guilty to the charge and accept a deal that would have secured his release sooner.

“I did nothing wrong,” said Cruz.

Cruz was exonerated. The charge against him was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. By the time he was released from jail, however, he had lost his job, his car had been repossessed and his credit rating had been shredded.

“They don't even say they made a mistake. All they say is, ‘You can go.’ But what about my loss of employment? What about my car I lost?” said Cruz.

Cruz is an example of what many justice reform advocates have claimed is an unfair system of bail that punishes the poor.

“Bail exists not to detain people because they're poor, but to assure their appearance at trial,” said KPRC legal analyst Brian Wice. “Defendants should not be warehoused prior to trial in misdemeanor cases simply because they can’t afford bail.”