Vol. 17| March 2022
New One of a Kind Dashboard Reveals Bail Bond System Information for Harris County 
As ongoing issues are discussed surrounding the bail bond system, the Justice Administration Department (JAD) created a DASHBOARD to help provide transparency on the bail system through data.
On November 9, 2021, the Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a motion made by Commissioner Adrian Garcia, calling for the creation of a public-facing dashboard to improve transparency around Harris County's bail practices. 
With their leadership and support, JAD, in partnership with Universal Services, has created a one-of-a-kind dashboard based on a compilation of data from Harris County departments, allowing the public to view it all in one centralized location. 

As part of a Harris County public safety initiative, JAD launched phase one of the interactive Harris County Bail Dashboard. The community can view aggregate data information on misdemeanor and felony bond-related items. 
The dashboard includes misdemeanor and felony offense type, types of bonds being granted, the court to which a case is currently assigned, and a list of bondsmen with the highest total bond amount. The dashboard also includes the types of crimes for which defendants are being bonded out, the demographic make-up of those receiving a bond, and a definitions page to help guide the user through the proper terminology of the bail system. 
Following the initial launch of phase one, JAD introduced some new enhancements to this phase, including the following:

  • Introduction of a new page to show monthly totals for the current year for both misdemeanors and felonies
  • Expanded the bond amount breakdown ranges for felonies
To provide context to the dashboard and to help you navigate the interactive data, JAD has published a Dashboard Guide.

JAD is currently working on gathering the requirements to begin phase two programming of the dashboard. Please look for the stage two updates to this dashboard to be announced in the coming months.

To view the Harris County Bail Dashboard and JAD's other dashboards, visit our website data page here.
Spotlight on Media & News Announcements
New JAD Dashboard Reveals Bail Bond System Information for Harris County


Harris County releases a first-of-its-kind bail data dashboard. The bail bond system can be complex and involves numerous stakeholders throughout the criminal justice system. Additionally, every year approximately 37,000 individuals go through the system. There is a legal presumption of the right to bail, meaning Texans have a right to bail in all but the most extreme circumstances. Bail is a security given by the accused that he/she will appear before the proper court and answer the accusation brought against him/her, including a bail bond or personal bond.

To increase transparency, Commissioners Court unanimously passed a motion made by Commissioner Adrian Garcia instructing the development of a public-facing bail data dashboard to inform the public about current bail bond practices in Harris County.

"There has been a lot of rhetoric and noise around the issue of bail. Understanding the role of all justice stakeholders from bondsmen, to prosecutors and judges is critical for the entire system to work," said Commissioner Adrian Garcia. "To that end, we are looking at how to keep the public informed about their safety, and that's the goal of this dashboard. We are overdue to have more transparency on how the bail bond process works in real life. This data tracker will help our residents understand what's actually taking place, without spin or nonsense political messaging." 
JAD launched phase one of the interactive Harris County Bail Dashboard, where the community can view aggregate data information on the following:

  • Misdemeanor Offense Type
  • Misdemeanor Bond Amount (surety/cash, unsecured/pr, and general order bond)
  • Misdemeanor Demographics (race, ethnicity, gender, and age)
  • Misdemeanor Consolidated
  • Misdemeanor Bonds by Courts
  • Felony Offense Type
  • Felony Bond Amount (surety/cash, unsecured/pr, and general order bond)
  • Felony Demographics (race, ethnicity, gender, and age)
  • Felony Consolidated
  • Felony Bonds by Courts
  • Bondsmen by Bond Amount (bond amount paid by bondsman)
  • National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) Offense Grouping Breakup
  • Data Table
  • Definitions Related to Bail

Commissioner Tom Ramsey seconded the motion during Commissioners Court to create a bail dashboard.

"Violent, repeat offenders are out on the streets, and this dashboard is a step in the right direction for finding accountability," said Commissioner Tom Ramsey. "We still have a long way to go for a more robust dashboard, but I'm looking forward to the final product. Specifically for it to include if the DA recommended bond and the suspect was granted bond anyway, the names of the judges who set the bond, and the number of defendants who have multiple bonds. I'd like to thank the Justice Administration Department for their hard work in gathering the data." 
Dashboard Highlights for Phase One Include:

  • Beginning in July 2017, the number of felony and misdemeanor pretrial bonds increased in tandem with the implementation of the Public Safety Assessment Risk Tool.
  • In February 2019, Harris County Criminal Courts at Law amended its bail practices to grant unsecured personal bonds for most misdemeanors, known as Local Rule 9.
  • With the introduction of the General Order Bond in 2019, the bond distribution by bond amount shows a significant increase in bonds issued in the range of $1 - $100 for misdemeanor offenses.
  • Since the introduction of the General Order Bond in 2019, the bond distribution by bond type has significantly decreased the number of surety/cash bonds issued for misdemeanor offenses.
  • Since 2019 and the introduction of the General Order Bond, there has been a higher number of surety/cash bonds issued for felony offenses.

"This dashboard helps to shine a light on important decisions affecting our community. By making bail decisions more transparent, this dashboard shows that we continue to rely on wealth-based detention in our felony bail system. We need to make decisions based on safety for our community, not how much money a defendant has in their bank account," stated Commissioner Rodney Ellis 
The interactive Harris County Bail Dashboard includes a page dedicated to defining the types of bonds reflected in the dashboard to help the public break down and understand its terminology. The Harris County Bail Dashboard Guide is a how-to guide to help you navigate the dashboard. To view the media PowerPoint Presentation click here. These tools join JADs growing set of resources, reflecting the commitment of Harris County to a more transparent and accountable government.
JAD has also released several public-facing dashboards: Index Crime Rates Dashboard, Traffic Stop Demographics Dashboard, which measures the metric of different outcomes and possibilities during a traffic stop; The Court Appointments Dashboard, and Indigent Defense Dashboard, among others.
To learn more about JAD's dashboards and to view our dashboard user guides, visit our website here.
News & Information on Policy Work by JAD
Harris County’s historic misdemeanor bail reform, referred to as the ODonnell Consent Decree, was settled in federal court then approved by Commissioners Court on November 21, 2019. The consent decree represents the first federal court-supervised remedy governing bail. Settlement parties agreed to a seven-year comprehensive implementation plan that includes
oversight by an independent federal court monitor. On March 3, 2020, the federal court-appointed Independent Monitor Professor Brandon Garrett of Duke University School of Law, Deputy Monitor Sandra Guerra Thompson of University of Houston Law Center, and research experts from the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A& M University and the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke University School of Law to report progress of the consent decree. In compliance, a progress report is provided to the federal court every six months for the first three years until March 2023, then annually until the conclusion of all implementation scheduled for March 2026.

In year two of the monitorship, their fourth report filed March 3, 2022, highlighted Harris County’s significant consent decree accomplishments, including the translation of pretrial hearing and bond conditions forms and the financial affidavit. Implementation of new email, text, and voice notifications for court appearances in misdemeanor cases since November 2021. Harris County is obliged to allocate $250,000 to mitigate misdemeanor court nonappearance with the General Order Bond Program, oversight by Harris Center until analyses are completed to study primary causes. Ideas42 is actively conducting that research and studying misdemeanor court nonappearance. Commissioners Court approved funds for the FY22 budget to expand mitigation efforts after their research and study are complete. Justice Administration hosted its third ODonnell public meeting on October 27, 2021.

The Monitors presented their third report, and the County Attorney’s Office, Criminal Courts at Law, and Sheriff’s Office provided detailed implementation updates from their respective agencies. In compliance, the next meeting is scheduled for the last week of April 2022. Harris County issued RFP for a new vendor to provide Local Rule 9 and ODonnell Consent Decree refresher trainings to misdemeanor stakeholders. Lastly, the report reflected that the County is planning its response to the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) evaluation of Harris County’s misdemeanor indigent defense systems on July 9, 2021.
The monitor's fourth report also featured the first edition of Community Viewpoints. Deputy Monitor Sandra Guerra Thompson interviewed Guadalupe Fernandez and Hiram “Art” Contreras, two members of the ODonnell Community Working Group, on the effects of Harris County’s misdemeanor bail system and the effects on immigrant communities, survivors of family violence, and law enforcement.

Lastly, the monitors thoroughly detailed their work on policy assessments and reporting, the study of magistration hearing outcomes, reviewal of Harris County Sheriff’s logistic and policy improvements, reviewal of the implementation of Criminal Courts at Law and Office of Court Management court appearance process, and electronic court notification system, updates on all of the misdemeanor Harris County criminal justice stakeholders, and they presented a data analysis and cost study. The data analysis included richer and more comprehensive data; however, their findings largely confirmed previous reports.
JAD Policy Director Lindsey Linder attended the 35th Annual Juvenile Law Conference from February 27 to March 2 in San Antonio, Texas.

The annual Juvenile Law Conference, organized by the Juvenile Law Section of the Texas State Bar, provides juvenile law information to those working in the juvenile justice field in Texas and brings together attorneys, judges, advocates, law enforcement, and other juvenile justice system practitioners and service providers.
This year's conference included presentations on juvenile mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities, ethical issues related to representing dual status youth, truth-based relational intervention, race, and adultification bias, and current trends in substance abuse treatment. 
During the conference, Lindsey met with and discussed youth justice issues with various juvenile justice system actors that came from around Texas. Lindsey looks forward to sharing her knowledge from the conference with the JAD team and other juvenile justice stakeholders in Harris County. 
A Look at Policy & Partnerships at Work

JAD serves the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department in a supportive role on various programming and policy objectives. The Youth Justice Reinvestment Fund, which will expand community-based supportive services in underserved areas of Harris County, is one example. In furtherance of this partnership, on February 11, 2022, JAD had the opportunity to tour the newly renovated Youth Village in Seabrook, Texas.

Upon arrival, Youth Villages gives the impression of a treatment-oriented facility where youth have the opportunity to grow into productive law-abiding citizens. Set on a large parcel of land the impression of a treatment-oriented on a large parcel of land with green manicured lawns and hundred-year oak trees, there is no fencing nor Constantine wire typical of many juvenile secure facilities. The property is surrounded by residential housing, which once housed astronauts like Gus Grissom during the golden age of space exploration. On the other side of the property is Mud Lake, which despite its descriptive name is blue with birds, fish, and the occasional alligator.
The buildings on this beautiful setting house Youth Villages. This program provides comprehensive treatment programming for young people who have not maintained success in community-based programs. While the typical stay is about 3 months, young people, supported by their families, have a chance to reset and learn better the connection between thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Youth Village offers programming for young people that have a history of violence or other significant maladaptive coping skills. Programming includes school, therapy, medication management, health care, and other skill-building. Traditional forms of therapy-based treatment are provided to both parents and families to learn better methods of handling the stressful situations that life can present. In addition to the traditional forms of therapy, other modalities such as equine therapy will be available to young people. A newly renovated barn will serve as an eventual home for abused horses. Young people will have the opportunity to work with the horses and not only heal the horse from their trauma but themselves as well.
In addition to treatment, the program offers comprehensive schooling administered by a local charter school that can accommodate the range of learning needs that exist for justice-involved young people. Additionally, the vocational component of programming exposes young people to various trades including printmaking and merchandising. The idea behind such programming is to entice young people to think about their future in a positive and prosocial manner. There is even a swimming pool where young people can learn to swim and gain lifeguard certification. Other programming includes a gym, basketball court, and a robust library rotated with books from the Harris County Public Library system. 
At the center of treatment is family involvement, as it is critical to a young person’s success. JPD encourages regular and meaningful visitation between families and young people. To facilitate visits, JPD will either pick families up or meet them at the nearest bus line. Young people and families can meet at various areas on the property. A newly installed fishing pier allows for young people to interact with families and other adults in a more natural environment. A phone is also available in the young person’s sleeping quarters so they can always contact their parents. The planned renovation will also include converting a house on the property into a therapy-visitation center.
The renovation of the Youth Villages program is a significant step towards the goal of transforming juvenile justice and creating programming that helps young people grow into productive and healthy citizens of Harris County. 
In The News
Houston Chronicle: New bail dashboard offers look at trends in Harris County criminal courts

ABC13 - KTRK: Harris County Commissioner unveils new online bail dashboard for public view

CBS11 - KHOU: Father of teen killed while leaving Astros game helps unveil Harris County Bail Dashboard

Yahoo News: New Bail Bond Dashboard in Harris County

NBC5 - DFW: Texas County Hopes Online Dashboard Eases Crime Concerns
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Racial Disparity & Fairness Administrator, JAD