HOUSTON – The Harris County Justice Administration Department is offering to pay suspected criminals who have missed court $30 in exchange for information about why they missed court.
The program, which is being advertised on the department’s Facebook page, is designed to learn more about why misdemeanor defendants miss their county court dates.
HCJAD’s mission is to collect data and use it to improve Harris County’s court system.
The relatively new agency, formed in 2019, was born out of a federal civil rights lawsuit against Harris County. A federal consent decree mandates that Harris County study why people miss court appearances and seek to fix the problem in an equitable way.
A company called “Ideas42″ was hired to administer the survey.
“We are not paying people to go to court. This is a study, and so we are surveying people who have been charged with a misdemeanor in Harris County and we want to speak to them to better understand their struggles, if any, in getting to court,” Shannon McAuliffe, Vice President of Ideas42 said.
HCJAD could not immediately respond with the cost of the county’s contract with Ideas42, but Harris County tax dollars are funding the program and the defendants who participate.
McAuliffe said that about $1,500 would be paid out in total to 50 respondents at $30 per person.
Andy Kahan, Director of Victim Services for Crime Stoppers of Houston, does not like the idea of paying suspected criminals with tax dollars while crime victims are left in the cold.
“I’ve been around a long time, and I have never seen anything where you’re paying defendants to share whatever perceived difficulties they might have getting to court,” Kahan said.