Vol. 15| January 2022
"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” - Socrates
A New Year, A New Criminal Justice Coordinating Council
On September 28, 2021, Commissioners Court discussed the importance of Harris County having an effective Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). To assist Commissioners Court in determining how the CJCC could be strengthened, JAD produced a memo that provides how and why the CJCC was formed, challenges with the current structure, the characteristics and best practices of high-functioning CJCCs, and recommendations for Commissioners Court consideration.
The CJCC has experienced challenges with effectively tackling pressing justice issues in recent years. The sheer size of the Council largely drove these challenges.  The 35-member body which includes appointed and elected officials from Harris County, City of Houston, and community representatives, made it difficult to hold meetings and achieve a quorum, hindering the decision-making process. 
In November, JAD hosted two workshops—where 20 members or their representatives attended in person—and eleven one-on-one interviews to ask the following questions: 

  • What has and has not worked during your time on the Council?
  • What can we do in Harris County to duplicate best practices from other jurisdictions? 
  • What topic do you feel is the most important topic the Council should be addressing? 
Tom Eberly, Program Director, and Aimee Wickman, Project Associate, both from the Justice Management Institute (JMI), facilitated the workshops. JMI is a nationally recognized expert on CJCCs and leads the National Network of Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (NNCJCC). JMI provided a high-level assessment from the workshops with recommendations to Harris County to strengthen the CJCC.  
In response to the feedback received during the workshops and interviews, and based on recommendations from JMI on best practices, JAD made the following recommendations: 
  • Prioritize the completion of a strategic planning process to articulate its vision and goals, 
  • Consolidate the CJCC membership, 
  • Hold Council meetings more frequently, 
  • Utilize committees to implement the vision of the CJCC, which will allow the Council to include perspectives from subject matter experts, community members, and relevant stakeholders beyond CJCC membership, and 
  • Amend Bylaws to reduce the CJCC membership composition, establish priority-focused committees, and allow for additional rule changes to allow the CJCC to be nimbler in prioritizing and addressing justice issues in a timely manner. 
Commissioners Court approved the recommendation to consolidate the membership and implement best practices of other high-functioning CJCCs. The CJCC is scheduled to meet on Thursday, January 27th.
News & Information on Policy Work by JAD

The Justice Administration Department (JAD) strives to be a resource to the public by providing timely and relevant information. Increasing public safety and reducing violent crime is front and central to everything we do. To that end, JAD recently launched a new dashboard showing Index-Crime Rate statistics in Harris County
This dashboard shows crime trends over time in Harris County and compares crime rates between Harris County, other counties in Texas, and large counties in the United States.

This article contains some common questions and highlights of some of the data snapshots that can be ascertained from the dashboard in an effort to provide context to the raw data and assist the public in fully utilizing the dashboard.  

Where does the data come from? The crime rate data for Harris County and other counties in Texas are sourced from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Website, which is available for public use. Law enforcement agencies submit this data to the DPS. The data for large counties in the United States. are sourced from various public websites, which are also available for public view/use.
What does JAD’s dashboard show? The new dashboard shows counts of index crimes reported annually; the counts are normalized by population to show counts per 100,000 residents and year-on-year percentage changes. “Index Crimes” refers to the seven index crimes that make up the Federal Bureau of Investigation's uniform crime index: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny (theft), and motor vehicle theft. Trends are shown from 2015 through 2020 for Harris County and other counties in Texas and from 2018 through 2020 for other counties in the United States.
Data highlights: 
Harris County Index Crime Rates From 2010 to 2020 Compared to Other Texas Counties 
An analysis of Harris County Index Crime rates from 2010 to 2020 compared to Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Tarrant, and Travis County revealed the following:  
Harris County’s Index Crime rate was lower in 2020 than in any year from 2010-2016 and was relatively consistent with 2017 and 2019.  
You can read the rest of the highlights on our blog, click below.

The American Society of Criminology (ASC) is an international organization whose members pursue professional, scholarly, and scientific knowledge concerning crime, criminal justice, delinquency, and deviance. ASC conducts a meeting annually devoted to discussions on general interest topics that include: criminology in the 21st century, teaching criminal justice, and the etiology of crime.
The 76th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) was back this year as an in-person conference following strict COVID-19 protocols for safety. This year's conference was held in Chicago, IL, and it was smaller than in previous years due to COVID. Despite this, over a thousand criminologists, academicians, and practitioners from several states and countries met to discuss the latest research in the field. 
The theme of this year's conference was “Science and Evidence-Based Policy in a Fractured Era." JAD’s Dr. Veronyka James, Survivor of Crimes Researcher & Specialist, had the opportunity to attend and present at this year's conference.
Dr. James presented as part of a roundtable that discussed developing boundary-setting and work-life balance. The roundtable focused on creating a healthy work-life balance, learning how to manage expectations of an individual's time, and setting aside time for self-care to prevent burn-out.  
In addition to this roundtable, Dr. James attended numerous sessions while at ASC. These included sessions on human trafficking, law enforcement operations and
the darknet, sexual harassment and misconduct, and nonhuman victims (e.g., animals and environmental crimes). In addition to attending sessions, informal discussions on various criminal justice topics and networking occurred. 
During the conference, Dr. James met and discussed criminal justice issues with various academics and practitioners that came from around the world. She also shared JAD’s U-Visa report and model policy, created with the help of our partners.
Dr. James looks forward to bringing back the knowledge and connections she attained while at the conference and sharing them with practitioners and academics in Harris County. She plans to continue the conversations on ways of supporting survivors of crime, especially advocating for “non-traditional” victims
(e.g., those who are justice-involved). 
Insight into the JAD's Data and Analytics Division

JAD's Data and Analytics Division is looking forward to another productive year in 2022! Dashboards coming this year will cover a number of topics including the criminal case backlog, bonds, and the jail population just to name a few.

Here’s a look at what we have coming this year:
  •  Backlog Reduction Analytics
  • Will allow users to view a prediction model of backlog cases

  • Bond Dashboard
  • Will showcase various elements related to misdemeanor and felony bond charges. A few of the items on the Dashboard will reflect, bail bonds per offense charge and type, approval dates of bonds, amount,  and demographics,  court division, and offense type 

  • Indigent Defense Dashboard
  • Will provide enhancements to the existing dashboard

  •  ODonnell Consent Decree Public Measures Dashboard
  • Will support compliance with the consent decree
  •  Jail Population Dashboard
Another worthy dashboard to review is the Jail Population Dashboard prepared by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The Jail Population Dashboard contains details about the current jail population in Harris County including statistics on the level of offenses, arresting agencies, and the range of crimes. You will also find certain demographics and historical trends within the Jail Population Dashboard. 

Upcoming for 2022 as a companion to the Jail Population Dashboard, JAD will publish a separate dashboard that will take a historical look at weekly trends pre-ODonnell through present time with housing, length of stay, offense type, and other properties for each booking.
A Look at Policy & Partnerships at Work
Responsive Interventions for Change (RIC) Docket was created in 2016 as part of a strategy for the Safety + Justice Challenge Grant from the MacArthur Foundation.   
The District Court JudgesDistrict Attorney’s OfficeDistrict Clerk’s OfficePretrial ServicesCommunity Supervision and Corrections DepartmentThe Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, and the Public Defender’s Office collaborated on the RIC Docket, which targets low-level drug possession offenses of <4 grams or less. Eligible pretrial arrestees are directly filed onto a centralized docket, versus being referred from the home court.  The RIC Docket team focuses on assessment with expedited release to the community coupled with treatment and appropriate supervision levels. The RIC Docket celebrated its 5th anniversary in October, and to date, over 24,000 cases have been filed on the docket.   
In 2021 the same stakeholders collaborated again on a project to implement an efficient process for participants that successfully complete a pretrial intervention (PTI) in RIC to file a petition for expunction upon eligibility. The granting of an expunction essentially clears a record, which improves individuals’ future success by removing barriers to finding a job or a place to live. The participants are required to complete the treatment and/or programming recommended in the assessment and provide drug screening as directed to have their case dismissed.  The PTI contract also stipulates that the participants must wait one year from the time of the dismissal before a petition may be filed.  To date, there have been over 2,400 participants that have completed RIC programming and have had their case dismissed.   
Navigating the expunction process is a complicated maze and to ensure that eligible RIC participants would take advantage of this opportunity, stakeholders took great care to make the process as easy and convenient as possible.  Early on, the Holistic Division of the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) committed to representing these individuals in filing a petition for expunction. The PDO even developed an online process to submit an electronic version of necessary forms, utilizing QR codes for convenience. After many meetings and discussions, and efficient process was developed, agreed upon by the stakeholders, and finalized. 
To address participants that had already completed the program and were eligible, the PDO recently sent out mass mailings to notify participants on how to access their services.  So far, the PDO has received over 130 responses through the submission of forms. Responses are coming in from people that are still going through their programming and will be filed upon completion and eligibility. Most participants who responded, have received their dismissals and completed their waiting period. The PDO has begun working on the process to file those petitions. 
A special thank you to stakeholders who put many hours into successfully implementing an expunction process for the RIC Docket. Collaboration at its finest!    

The JAD team sends a warm congratulation to District Clerk Marilyn Burgess and her team for being awarded the G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation presented by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).  

District Clerk Burgess received the award for implementing e-Juror, an electronic summoning system, as well as for providing free parking, coffee, and meal vouchers for jurors, and launching the “Stand for Justice” Awareness Campaign to promote participation in jury service.   These advances make the process more efficient, convenient, and the amenities reflect an appreciation for citizens reporting for jury service.  

JAD thanks District Clerk Burgess and her dedicated team for implementing these improvements! 
In The News
Reform Austin: Legally Purchased Guns Key Part in Crime Wave.
Media Interview
FOX 26: Commissioner Garcia speaks about the Harris County Sexual Assault Response Team.

FOX 26: Houston Area Women's Center on Rape Response Team.
We have a Racial and Ethnic Equity Committee Public Meeting on February 7, 2022.
JAD Blog
The blog is up and running.
Harris County Job Search
Program Manager, HART

Community Empowerment & Engagement Manager

Program Manager, Violence Interruption