Once again the Republican misdemeanor judges in Harris County have their panties in a wad. And, once again, it has to do with a federal judge telling them that the little bail bond scheme they followed for years is unconstitutional and must be changed.
The judges are upset because US District Judge Lee Rosenthal's revised order will force the county to release certain non-violent offenders within a certain time period. The judges claim this will endanger the public's safety.
Bullshit. What it will do is remove the coercive power the state had on criminal defendants to force them to plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit.
The way Harris County operated for years was to follow a bail bond schedule that didn't take the defendant's financial circumstances into effect when setting bail. The only things that mattered were the type of offense and whether the defendant had any prior convictions. Bond was set automatically by a piece of paper and thousands of folks were held in custody until they resolved their cases -- usually by pleading guilty in a mass plea for time served or some other token sentence.
Prosecutors got their convictions. Judges got cases off their dockets. And since those accused of criminal acts don't have an effective lobby - no one gave a fuck.
Anyone who has spent any time in this racket knows that it is a hell of a lot easier to fight one's case if one is not behind bars. When you're behind bars you're not working, not earning money, not seeing your family and all you can do is think about how many more days this hell is going to last.
When you're out on bond you can work and earn money. You sleep in your own bed. You see your friends and family. You can speak with you attorney face to face without a thick sheet of plexiglass between you. You're also not under the pressure to resolve the case quickly because you are able to resume your normal life.
And the misdemeanor judges in Harris County hate this. They hate the fact that defendants out on bond are able to fight their cases. They hate the fact that the state doesn't have the same coercive hold on them as they do on the defendants in the jumpsuits.
Well, let's be straight about one thing. It's unfair to lump all of the misdemeanor judges into the same pile. Darrell Jordan, a Democrat, and Michael Fields, a Republican, aren't part of the ongoing lawsuit. I don't think it's a coincidence that they are the only two black judges on the misdemeanor bench in Harris County.
Most of the defendants in the misdemeanor courts are black and Latino. These are the folks that conservative white voters in the suburbs have been taught to hate. As anyone who understands Harris County politics knows, Republican candidates rely on those suburban voters to get elected because they don't have a chance within the Houston city limits.
The judges who continue to spend our tax money to defend an unconstitutional bail bond system are spreading fear and hatred among their suburban supporters in a desperate measure to build up some sort of support for Republican candidates in what could very easily be a bloodbath for the wingnuts.
The Republican judges (minus Judge Fields) are furiously blowing on their dog whistles. And they are doing it, not to maintain public safety, but to maintain a criminal (in)justice system that targets the poor and those with dark skin.
And for those keeping tabs, the current bill for fighting the lawsuit is $6.6 million. How's that for financial responsibility?