Inmate released under Harris County Judge’s coronavirus order, back in jail on new charges

HOUSTON – An inmate released under a short-lived order by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus in Harris County Jail, was arrested Tuesday and faces new charges.

Hidalgo’s order called for the release of certain non-violent inmates in an effort to reduce the jail’s population during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to the Harris County Justice Administration Department (JAD), 12 men were released under Hidalgo’s order before it was blocked by a felony court judge. According to JAD officials, Quaran Isiaha Pope was released on April 3. Bond paperwork revealed that Pope was released, pursuant to Hidalgo’s order. Pope, who records show has a prior criminal history, was released while facing charges of possessing another person’s ID.

Channel 2 Investigates learned Pope was arrested again on Tuesday. He is now charged with possessing other people’s IDs and burglary of a motor vehicle.

This type of incident has been at the push-pull of trying to find a way to bring the jail’s population down to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus. KPRC 2 Legal Analyst Brian Wice explains why, even in the face of a pandemic, that is no small task.

“There is no issue more politicized than whether or not inmates, who constitute a potential danger to Harris county citizens and Texans, ought to be released from confinement,” said Wice.

When Hidalgo’s order was blocked by felony court judge Herb Ritchie, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez turned to a federal court judge to help settle the matter. Late Tuesday Judge Lee Rosenthal notified all parties she would not intervene in this particular matter.

“A federal district court asked to wade into policy and political disagreements among State and County elected officials is in risky territory,” Judge Rosenthal wrote in her ruling that is part of a larger civil lawsuit involving Harris County’s bail practices. The lawsuit is ongoing and the judge is requiring regular updates on the jail’s population and efforts to release non-violent inmates.