Vol. 13 | November 2021
"We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count." - Neal A. Maxwell
Data & Analytics News-Bytes

JAD strives to be a resource to the public by providing timely and relevant information via our website. Increasing public safety and reducing violent crime is front and center to everything we do. To that end, we are thrilled to announce the launching of a new dashboard showing Index-Crime Rates statistics in Harris County. This dashboard shows crime trends over time in Harris County and compares crime rates between Harris County and other counties in Texas and between Harris County and large counties in the US.
The crime rate data for Harris County and other counties in Texas are sourced from the Texas Department of Public Safety Website, which is available for public use. Law enforcement agencies submit this data to the DPS, and this is made readily accessible on their website here. The data for large counties in the US are sourced from various public websites, which are also available for public view/use.
The dashboard shows counts of index crimes as reported annually; the counts are normalized by population to show counts per 100,000 residents and year-on-year percentage change. The trend is shown from 2015 through 2020 for Harris County and counties in Texas, and from 2018 through 2020 is shown for counties in the US. 

News & Information on Policy Work by JAD

Imagine being a survivor of a sexual assault or domestic violence, but you are too afraid to contact the police and report the crime due to your immigration status and the possibility of being deported. Imagine that you do report, but, in addition to the trauma you face, you now face additional hurdles in getting certification to apply for a visa so you no longer have to worry about your immigration status. This can be the reality for the approximately 412,000 undocumented immigrants in Harris County.
Congress created the U visa with the dual role of assisting law enforcement agencies in detecting and investigating crimes and encouraging reporting by those who might be fearful of law enforcement due to immigration status. To qualify, an applicant must have been a survivor of certain qualifying crimes (e.g., domestic violence, trafficking) and help authorities in the investigation and/or prosecution of this crime. The U visa awards lawful status (and thus the ability to obtain a work permit) and a path to a green card and citizenship for immigrant survivors and their families. However, only 10, 000 primary U visas can be issued per fiscal year (October to September). 
In fiscal year 2020, there were 36,448 total U visa applications filed across the entire United States. Of these, 5,165 applications, or 14 percent, were denied. As a result of the cap on the number of U visas issued there were still 270,074 applications pending from 2020 and previous years. Due to this large backlog, those who apply for a U visa wait on average seven years for a decision. This can take a toll on survivors since while waiting on a decision, they can still potentially be deported due to their immigration status. Using data from the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and Harris County District Attorney’s Office, there were 2,193 certification requests in Harris County in 2020.
One required part of the U visa application is a completed Form 1-918B (i.e., U visa certification) which must be completed by a certifying agency. However, there is no standard certification process for this form either nationwide or locally. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not require law enforcement to certify U visa applicants, even if they are survivors of crime or singular witnesses of serious criminal activity, and are helpful in the investigation or prosecution of these crimes. This creates additional hurdles for survivors to apply for a U visa, adding to their trauma and undermining the purpose of the U visa.

To address these challenges in the U visa process, on November 10, 2020, Commissioners Court approved a motion made by Commissioner Adrian Garcia instructing the Harris County Justice Administration Department (JAD) to produce a Model U visa Policy for law enforcement agencies to use when processing Form I-918B requests and to promote this procedure to local law enforcement agencies.
On March 30, 2021, JAD presented a Model Policy and report to Commissioners Court. During that Court, JAD was instructed to meet with advocates to get their feedback on the policy and make changes incorporating this feedback. The JAD team met with County partners to help build a U visa Model Policy composed of best practices. As a result of these meetings, JAD updated the report and Model U visa Policy to ensure Harris County’s approach is survivor-centered. The Model Policy was also reviewed and approved by the County Attorney’s Office.
JAD submitted the updated report and the Model Policy to Commissioners Court on October 12, 2021. Commissioners Court unanimously approved this Model Policy during this meeting.  This Model Policy is advisory for certifying agencies to use when they receive U visa certification requests by immigrant survivors of crime or their legal counsel. By choosing to implement this policy, certifying agencies can make the U visa certification process easier and more uniform for survivors of crime without creating more barriers or hurdles for them in addition to the trauma they have experienced. This can also be used as a template for other counties in Texas and nationwide to implement more survivor-centered policies for U visa certification.

Following this unanimous approval, JAD is working with local law enforcement agencies and other certifiers to educate them on the U visa and the Model Policy. Additionally, JAD has been producing a social media campaign that helps to inform and educate the public on the value of the U visa and break down the Model Policy and the certification process.
JAD is grateful to Commissioners Court for giving us the opportunity to work on this important topic that impacts survivors of crime.

All parties of the ODonnell Consent Decree recognize that the input and involvement of Harris County residents will be essential to meaningful and lasting reform and to encourage effective ongoing monitoring, and evaluation of the system.

The Harris County Justice Administration Department (JAD) is committed to involving community members in the implementation and monitoring process. JAD began hosting semiannual meetings, virtually until further notice, October 2020. The most recent meeting was held on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, at 11:30 am via WebEx.

We are grateful to the Federal Court Monitor Brandon Garrett and Deputy Monitor Sandra Guerra Thompson for presenting the major consent decree accomplishments over the last six months. According to the Monitor report and presentation,
In addition to the Monitor and Deputy Monitor we are grateful for the participation of Rachel Fraser, Assistant County Attorney, which presented on the role of Office of Harris County Attorney in the implementation of the consent decree.  Along with presiding Judge Toria Finch from Harris County Criminal Courts at Law whom discussed the positive impact of misdemeanor bail reform.
Following presentations, Major Patrick Dougherty with the Harris County Sherriff’s Department expressed during the community Q&A that misdemeanor reform helps to keep the jail population lower.

Thank to all our presenters and our community guests for joining this meeting. If you were unable to not attend the meeting, you can view to review the PowerPoint presentation or watch the recording please visit https://jad.harriscountytx.gov/ODonnell-Consent-Decree.
The ODonnell Public next meeting will be in April 2022 please let us know if you would like to attend sign up for our newsletter to get the latest information or email by email media@jad.hctx.net
The next ODonnell Public meeting will be in April 2022.

To view the full Third Report of the Court Appointed Monitor report click here.
For further information, to review the PowerPoint presentation, or watch the recording please visit https://jad.harriscountytx.gov/ODonnell-Consent-Decree.
A Look at Policy & Partnerships at Work
By Tahirih Justice Center in collaboration with JAD
Partnerships matter and we want to thank Tahirih Justice Center and the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge for their work and collaboration. As part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, JAD is partnered with three organizations in Harris County to reduce racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system. In an effort to raise awareness of the work of this work, we’d like to profile one of our partners that is aligned with our goal through their support of survivors of crime. 

The lived experiences and insights of immigrant survivors of violence and/or crime are central to community solutions to prevent and reduce further harm, yet few opportunities exist for survivors to contribute to efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. Our Kitchen Table Conversations program invests in survivors as change agents.

Facilitated by Alondra Andrade, Tahirih Justice Center’s Community Engagement Coordinator, and Guadalupe Fernandez, Tahirih Justice Center’s Houston Policy and Advocacy Manager, with increasing support over time from survivor-leaders, the monthly Kitchen Table Conversations gathers approximately ten regular participants to tackle issues of safety and justice; deliver leadership development (political education, advocacy skills, and anti-oppression trainings); and convene healing circles. Events are currently held remotely and hope to be in person once it is safe to do so.
A Spotlight on JAD Staff Talking Justice & Policy
Houston - Dr. Ana Yáñez Correa, Interim Director of the Harris County Justice Administration Department (JAD) recently presented at a Pure Justice dinner and discussion conversation on Indigent Defense and Advocating for Adequate Defense.

The U.S. Constitution provides that every person has the right to an attorney in criminal prosecutions, regardless of their financial status. As a result, states must provide publicly-funded lawyers to defendants charged with jailable offenses who are unable to afford an attorney. Providing indigent criminal defendants with access to effective legal counsel is critical to ensuring due process. However, local jurisdictions continue to struggle with how to best ensure the quality of indigent defense is provided consistently and to the highest possible standard. Harris County is doing everything it can to ensure indigent defendants receive quality legal representation.

Pure Justice—a non-partisan group focused on community organizing, civic engagement, education, and research as methods to help reform institutions and systems that perpetuate social and criminal injustices, aiming to improve the lives of low-income and working-class families—hosted a well-attended dinner and discussion on the importance of adequate defense. Dr. Ana Yáñez Correa, Interim Director of the Harris County Justice Administration Department (JAD), was asked to present on the topic and what Harris County was doing to strengthen indigent defense.

Ana shared the importance of supporting the work of the Harris County Public Defender’s Office. In December 2020, JAD (in collaboration with the Harris County Public Defender’s Office and the Texas Indigent Defense Commission) developed a plan for the Public Defender’s Office to increase its capacity to handle fifty percent (50%) of indigent defense case appointments within the next two years for Commissioners Court to consider for incorporation in the next budget cycle. This report outlined the potential for growing the Public Defender’s Office into a robust, full-service defense program suitable for the third-largest County in the nation, including increased caseload, expansion of services, additional personnel, space requirements, cost, and effect upon the use of private appointed counsel. Other needed reforms to the County’s indigent defense system were described in the report as well, including expanding the Managed Assigned Counsel program (MAC), which is meant to “supports attorneys in giving poor people dignity and hope through high-quality and holistic representation”.
Additionally, in an effort to further improve indigent defense services in Harris County, the Harris County Commissioners Court passed a motion in June 2020 charging JAD with developing an indigent defense dashboard to enhance transparency and build public trust with Harris County court appointments practices. JAD developed two separate dashboards to accomplish this charge: 1) The Court Appointments Dashboard and 2) The Harris County Indigent Defense Dashboard. You can find the user guide for the Court Appointment Dashboard here and the Harris County Indigent Defense Dashboard here
Dr. Yáñez Correa presented a piece on JAD's indigent defense dashboards. Additional speakers included, Drew Lilley, founder of Restoring Justice, Gemayel Haynes with the Harris County Public Defender’s Office, Judge Darrell Jordan with the Harris County Criminal Court Law, and Kyle Matthews with Pure Justice Member, discussed the impact of inadequate counsel.
You can view JAD's presentation here.

Pictures Courtesy: Pure Justice
Spotlight on Media & News Announcements

JAD has launched a social media campaign to help educate and inform our community on the recently approved U visa Model Policy and the U visa process.

Following unanimous approval by Commissioners Court in October, JAD created a series of info-graphs to help inform, engage, and educate our County on the specifics about the U visa Model Policy as well as the U visa in general with the #HCUVISA
JAD plans to create videos to further reach out to our community and tell the story of the U visa Model Policy, in addition, to continued social media content as we move ahead with education and outreach on this impactful policy. #HCUVISA
Press Release
Harris County Commissioners Court Approves JAD’s Advisory Model Policy That Strengthens The U visa Certification Process
In The News
Houston Chronicle: Harris County Commissioners approve best practices to help immigrant survivors of crime.
Media Interview with JAD
Dr. Ana Yáñez Correa spoke to ABC13 about the new U visa policy.
We have a Racial and Ethnic Equity Committee Public Meeting on Nov. 17th.
JAD Blog
The blog is up and running.
Work at JAD
JAD is hiring a Senior Data Analyst.