Today the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. sent a letter to Harris County, TX district judges calling for the court to hold emergency jail release hearings to release at least 4,000 individuals incarcerated in the Harris County Jail. Of the 8,923 people incarcerated in the Harris County Jail, 7,801 are being held pretrial and have not been convicted of a crime. Though Black people comprise only 18% of Harris County’s population, almost half of the people incarcerated in the county are Black. Like prisons and jails across the nation, the Harris County Jail has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide power outages have made the situation untenable. The severity of the public health emergency requires officers of the court to take swift, affirmative action to protect the civil and human rights of individuals in state custody and lessen the untold human suffering taking place in the Harris County Jail.

LDF joins local and national advocacy groups to call upon district judges to:

  1. Immediately expand the General Order Bond to include and apply retroactively to all people charged with a drug or theft offense, thus reducing the jail population by over 600 individuals.
  2. Immediately hold emergency bail hearings via videoconference for each person assigned to your court and held in pretrial detention, prioritizing those individuals who have not had motions filed within the past six months and requiring argument from defense counsel, in order to release approximately 3400 individuals.

Read the full letter here.