Vol. 3 | January 2021
Harris County, Texas, is striving to lead in criminal justice innovation in the United States. The efforts described in this NEWSLETTER represent JAD's work for the Harris County Commissioners Court, and only a selection of JAD's pioneering policy work. In the coming months and years, JAD will continue to build coalitions with local stakeholders, identify successful initiatives from other jurisdictions and forge innovative, evidence-based reforms from the ground up.
We welcome newly elected Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey! He was elected in November following the retirement of Commissioner Steve Radack. As part of his new responsibilities, Commissioner Ramsey will serve on the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC).

Commissioner Ramsey brings a wealth of knowledge to the Court, the knowledge that he has accrued from 43 years of experience as a civil engineer. Prior to becoming part owner in Klotz Associates (which he sold in February of 2017), Commissioner Ramsey served as President/ CEO of a major national environmental services company with 400 engineers, scientists, and technicians, based in Denver, Colorado. He also lived and worked in Palestine, Texas, for six years.

One of Commissioner Ramsey's s priorities is the church. His father was the Pastor of First Baptist Crockett for over 30 years. Ramsey has taught Adult Bible Study in First Baptist Palestine and Beaumont. Additionally, he taught at Tallowood Baptist and currently teaches two Bible Study classes at Second Baptist Houston. At present, he serves as a Second Baptist Deacon and serves as Treasurer on the board of Loving Kids, an initiative helping at-risk children.

In 2017 Commissioner Ramsey began assisting Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in their ministries. He and his wife have traveled extensively with SWBTS, including trips to Israel, Germany, Africa, China, Thailand, and South Asia. These Kingdom-related trips have included Biblical Archeological Digs, Missionary Support, and Gospel sharing.

Marsha Kilman Ramsey (hometown Palestine) and Tom have been married for 48 years and have 3 adult children and seven grandchildren whom all live in the West Houston/Pct 3 area.

As for hobbies, Commissioner Ramsey can be found out on the green playing golf or on the water fishing when he's taking some time off.

Commissioner Ramsey has many priorities in his new role, and one very close to his heart is to focus on underserved neighbors and address the root causes of high crime rate in many of these neighborhoods. 
Welcome, Commissioner Ramsey to Harris County. – JAD family
JAD Welcomes the New Members of the CJCC
Christian Menefee
Harris County
Judge Tonya Jones
Administrative Judge
of the Statutory
County Courts
Judge Kelli Johnson
Administrative Judge of the Criminal Trial Division of the District Courts 
JAD Congratulates and Welcomes Freshman
Elected Criminal District Court Judges to Harris County
Judge Ana Martinez
179th Criminal District Court
Judge Colleen Gaido
337th Criminal District Court
Judge Te'iva Johnson Bell
339th Criminal District Court
Judge Natalia "Nata" Cornelio
351st Criminal District Court
News & Information on Policy Work by JAD

During the June 9, 2020, Commissioners Court meeting, the Court approved a motion made by Commissioner Rodney Ellis instructing the Public Defender’s Office (PDO), in collaboration with the Justice Administration Department (JAD) and the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC), to develop a plan for the PDO 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.
JAD published a report in December 2020, outlining the potential for growing the PDO into a robust, full-service defense program suitable for the third-largest County in the nation. The expansion would increase the number of individuals served, increase accessibility to services, fund additional personnel, meet space requirements, cover cost, and much more. The report also addressed other needed reforms to the County’s indigent defense system, including the expansion of the Managed Assigned Counsel program (MAC), instituting a centralized indigency determination and appointment of counsel process, and enhancing JAD’s indigent defense research capabilities.
It is a fundamental principle of public defense that the defense function be included as an equal partner in the justice system, and an equal partner in advancing necessary improvements. PDO lawyers consistently get better results for their clients, which reduces incarceration costs to the County and ultimately leads to lower recidivism, which not only reduces those direct costs to the criminal legal system but makes those persons available and eligible for opportunities in education, employment, and other aspects of productive citizenship. Additional reforms that would improve the County’s indigent defense system are included in the report, including expanding the MAC, creating a centralized and uniform indigency determination process, and expanding the County’s indigent defense research capabilities.

To learn more and to see our detailed recommendations, check out the report here: [LINK]
The Justice Administration Department (JAD) Partners with Harris County Constables, Harris County Fire Marshal, and Harris County Sheriff to Work on Reforming the Criminal Justice System 
On June 9th, Commissioners Court approved a motion for the Justice Administration Department (JAD) to gather monthly use of force reports by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Harris County Constables, and Fire Marshal and for these to be published on a public site. 

In addition to the data on use of force, Commissioners Court also approved a motion that same day for JAD to develop a model use of force policy for all Harris County law enforcement agencies to adopt. Court also requested a report on the feasibility and cost of creating an independent oversight law enforcement board to review the use of force allegations and other alleged misconduct. On November 10, Commissioners Court passed a motion for the JAD to examine the U-Visa program for immigrant survivors of crime and for our department to draft a model procedure for law enforcement agencies to process requests to complete Form I-918B (i.e., law enforcement certification). 

JAD is partnering with the Harris County Constables, the Harris County Fire Marshal, and the Harris County Sheriff, including the County Attorneys Office to fulfill these court mandates and to better understand the current use of force policies to develop a model use of force. JAD is also coordinating with the departments to gather current information on current incidents of use of force and create a public dashboard to publish this information to foster transparency while ensuring privacy is maintained. 

JAD recently met with all Constables to discuss these projects and how they could help each other achieve these goals. Additionally, JAD recently had a very informative meeting with the Sheriff’s department discussing their U-Visa policy and how the criminal justice system can better serve immigrant survivors of crime. JAD is looking forward to continuing our partnership with these departments to reform the criminal justice system, improve public safety, increase transparency, address racial and ethnic equity and inclusion, improve public trust and confidence with the justice system, and advocate for crime survivors.   
Harris County is in its fifth year of participating in the Safety + Justice Challenge (SJC) with the MacArthur Foundation.  The SJC initiative began in 2015 with the primary goal of reducing racial and ethnic disparities while safely reducing the jail population.  The County was chosen in 2016 as one of eleven jurisdictions across the United States to receive $2 million to implement strategies for justice system improvement. The funding enabled us to pilot approaches that created grant-funded positions, such as the Racial Disparity & Fairness Administrator, In Custody Population Manager at the Sheriff’s Office, and staffing to create the Responsive Interventions for Change (RIC) Docket in the District Courts. All of these positions have since been funded by Harris County out of the general fund. In addition to the grant funding, we have also received invaluable technical assistance from the Justice Management Institute, Vera Institute of Justice, Center for Court Innovation, W. Haywood Burns Institute, and Nexus Community Partners.   
In 2019, we applied for a renewal grant and received $2.1million to continue the SJC work and expand our strategies. Last year, the MacArthur Foundation announced a final round of funding for a two-year sustainability grant to position jurisdictions for long-term success.  The JAD team and justice stakeholders have been meeting over the past six months to develop the application and strategies.  The application was submitted on January 6 and prioritized: Advancing the Racial and Ethnic Equity Work, Increase Community Engagement, Maximize Safe and Effective Pretrial Release, and Improving Felony Case Processing.
JAD anticipates receiving a status notification from the foundation in the Spring. Future updates about this portfolio of work will be shared with the Harris County Commissioners Court and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. 

Spotlight on Media & News Announcements
A Look at Policy & Partnerships at Work
Helping Others Excel (HOEs) Class 
In 2019, there were 451 human trafficking cases reported to law enforcement. Of these, 74.7 percent were commercial sex acts (i.e., forced sex work, sexual exploitation). However, the National Human Trafficking Hotline had 1,080 cases of human trafficking reported in 2019. In reality, the number of human trafficking cases are much higher than this since “the nature of human trafficking is that it is not reported” and it is a crime that is often hidden. It was estimated that in 2016 there were 313,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, and of these, approximately 79,000 are minor and youth victims of sex trafficking. In 2019, 1,247 individuals were arrested for prostitution and commercial vice, though these could result from human trafficking.  JAD was invited to sit in a class called Helping Others Excel; here is our take on what we experienced. 
In the conference room at the Harris County Constable's Office, Precinct 1, there were, initially, two group members in person and several more attending via Zoom (though throughout the two hours, several more joined via Zoom and two more came into the conference room). Members ranged in age, and were both male and female, though primarily female. All were there to become better versions of themselves, to help the other group members do the same, and help prevent them from returning to “The Life” and/or returning to drugs. Their “leader”, Kathryn Griffin (Director of Human Trafficking Initiatives), a tireless advocate for survivors, has been helping them through their trauma and to see their potential for 18 years. A former drug addict and sex worker herself, she understands where these women (and men) are coming from and the long road to recovery, making her especially suited to assist the members in working through their trauma and becoming their best selves.  
Griffin speaks with a booming, no-nonsense, firm voice, continually showing her passion for helping survivors. Griffin is ready to dispense tough love to get her participants to the best place they can be after experiencing severe trauma from, frequently, years of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and the repercussion from that trauma, ranging from drug abuse to incarceration.  
The class, Helping Others Excel (HOEs), is confidential, similar to AA and NA meetings, to allow everyone to feel comfortable sharing personal information, often detailing the trauma members had survived. Some had been coming and sharing their stories for years; others are new, and here for the first time. This class started with everyone going around and introducing themselves and saying anything they needed or wanted to say. Some merely gave their name, while others provided name, information on what brought them to the class, and issues they were currently dealing with at the time. One member provided a heart-wrenching account of her victimization for years and the ramifications of this abuse. Another member shared how she was worried about returning to “The Life” (not by choice, but due to feeling she needed to go back as a result to monetary constraints), and another shared happier news of being in a relationship and apartment hunting.  
At every stage, Griffin was ready to dispense her unique version of self-help. Real, honest, empowering, but always coming from a place of love and wanting the best for those attending the class.  She is unapologetic, no-nonsense, and unrelenting, but all in good ways. Her primary focus is making survivors' lives better, even if sometimes they do not see that what she is asking them to do will gain this result. Even some of the members stated that they weren’t sure why Griffin asked them to do certain things in response to a new member, but they complied and are better for doing so.   
Throughout the class, Griffin dispensed her distinct form of advice to help survivors. With sayings such as, “Don’t say can’t because it’s harder than saying ‘can’”, “secrets keep you sick”, “don’t fold to labels”, and “up to you to change who you are”, she is constantly trying to get group members to rethink about themselves, work through their trauma and hurt, and learn to forgive themselves so they can move forward in their lives. Griffin works to help the members become the best versions of themselves; the members help others realize their potential. They would often speak up and give their advice on a topic raised or discuss how they thought something should be approached. Members also shared job opportunities to assist fellow survivors. They all worked together to increase the self-esteem of members present and work through their collective trauma together.  
During the class, Griffin’s phone was constantly pinging or ringing, highlighting the need she serves to survivors and those trying to leave “The Life” since it is not a life they chose or wanted, but a life chosen for them. Griffin does all her work through the goodness of her heart, funding much of her work from her own pocket. To further assist survivors attempting to leave “The Life” and work through the trauma, survivors need support. These include safe emergency housing for survivors since it is often unhelpful to put them in hotels (where they can be victimized again or fall back into “The Life”). Trafficking survivors also need clothing (so that they can change from the attire they are wearing when rescued), “care packages” with items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine products, and other necessities since many survivors do not have any possessions when rescued or leaving “The Life”, to help them especially through the first few days. However, despite her best efforts, she cannot do everything or reach every survivor. Though Griffin works tirelessly to reach as many individuals as she can, there is only one her. 
The dedication of Griffin is recognized daily by many, including Constable Rosen, Precinct One, who has provided her a home to run her program. 

At the Harris County Precinct One Constable’s Office we work every day to rescue women and girls who are caught in ‘The Life’. Kathy Griffin speaks with authority as a result of her experience and can connect with these women and girls like no one else. She is an integral part of our comprehensive efforts to increase awareness about this evil enterprise which steals the very souls of those who are often too afraid to cry out for help,said Constable Alan Rosen.In each case, Kathy, my team, and our investigators spend significant periods of time interviewing the person suspected of selling sex. This is part of our holistic approach to offering assistance and wrap-around services to human trafficking survivors.” 

Every participant of the program has their own story and their own challenges, but they have one thing in common—they have experienced trauma and are trying their best to heal from it. This was not the life they chose; it is a life chosen for them. We must all follow the footsteps of heroes like Griffin, who has selflessly given of herself, day in and day out, to undo the harms done to those who participate in the program and many others whom she assists. 
To learn more about the program, contact the Constables Office, Precinct One, OR Kathryn Griffin at 713-755-5200 
Data & Analytics News - Bytes
On the Horizon! 

The JAD Data & Technology team is working on three new dashboards to debut in the first half of 2021. Using their business intelligence talents, the team is excited to create visualizations and insights into our Harris County Criminal Justice System and how these sights can lead to helping the people of Harris County.
Criminal Justice Equity Index Dashboard (previously Racial and Ethnic Equity)
The Criminal Justice Equity Index dashboard will look at the arrests in Harris County from different perspectives. Viewing metrics based on race, ethnicity, mental health history, homelessness history, and other indicators will allow the user to see the discrepancies in various sectors. Ultimately, the hope of developing the dashboard is that users will discover avenues that could lead to better equality amongst Harris County residents.
Jail Population Dashboard Enhancements
The Jail Population Dashboard enhancements will add elements of mental health flags to support Articles 16.22 and 17.032 Requirements. By adding details of assessment, results, and outcome in accordance to Articles 16.22 and 17.032, we can better understand the trends due to policy changes that those with qualifying mental health issues and are low risk will be released on PR bond either with or without conditions for outpatient treatment for the mental illness.
Bond Analytics Dashboard (Including Local Rule 9 Elements)
The long term objective of a bond analytics dashboard is to improve our understanding of safety outcomes between people who were required to pay money to secure their release and similarly situated people who were not. Bond analytics should help assess and monitor the balance between public safety and the growing pretrial-detention population. We would also like to explore the relationship between pretrial detention and failure to appear for future court events. The data will also help us look into the effect of Local Rule 9 on misdemeanor pretrial population and outcomes.
What’s Happening Around Harris County
Harris County Commits to Funding for Youth Violence Prevention
Writing Program through 2025
by Office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo
The power of the written word is immense -- it can relate information, entertain, express intense feelings, and help the writer work through past experiences and plan for the future. On December 1, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a new grant to help expand a youth violence prevention program in Harris County that uses writing as its weapon.

The Do the Write Thing Challenge is a nonprofit organization that teaches at-risk middle schoolers how to constructively deal with anger, slights, bullying, and other conflicts without resorting to violence. Students at participating schools write essays, stories, plays or submit other compositions about how violence has affected them, the causes of that violence, and what they can do to stop violence. Each school picks a female and male winner, and their work is entered in a regional competition, which sends winners to Washington, D.C. to be honored at a national ceremony.

The non-violence, anti-bullying, and anti-truancy program will receive a grant of $100,000 a year for a maximum of five years from the Harris County General Fund. The Harris County Community
Services Department will oversee the program and review an annual report on its progress. The program has served more than 15,000 students in Harris County since 1999. 
Jury Assembly Plaza
By Jason Fuller and Rob Cullison with Manhattan Construction
Manhattan Construction Company and Page Architects continue to make great progress on the Harris County Jury Assembly building.

The facility, which received approximately eight feet of flood waters during Hurricane Harvey, is being renovated to increase its resiliency and improve the experience of the spaces. Previous flood protections have been upgraded for additional protection; the subterranean levels have been reconstructed with flood-resistant materials; and flood doors and barriers were raised to higher elevations to protect the Assembly building and the County tunnel areas.
Accommodations including additional restrooms, an enlarged food service café, additional seating, and WIFI capabilities have been included to better serve potential jurors.

The streel level additions are now visible along Congress Street. The new queueing area will allow space for 156 people to line up inside the building prior to passing through security. The glass-encased wings have been added along Congress Street and are also visible from the surrounding County facilities. The addition has been integrated into the existing design strategy using similar materials and color selections.

The building is set to be completed in the Spring.
FPM Director Jacob Frazelle &
JAD Director Jim Bethke
Budgeting The County During A Pandemic
By the Office of Budget Management
The Fiscal Year 2022 budget process is occurring in the context of the largest public health crisis and economic downturn in the last 80 years. The economic toll on Harris County has been severe. Since January 2020, over 100,000 net jobs have been lost. With employment and income down, industrial and commercial property values and other revenue drivers for the County have been and will be affected.

Nevertheless, the County expects to begin fiscal year 2022 in a strong positions, with an unrestricted, general fund balance in excess of $1.4 billion. The County received $426M in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding from the federal government. CARES funding, together with expected reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, has reduced the impact on the County.

Importantly, the downturn that began in April 2020 will only begin to affect property tax revenue-which is over 75% of the General Fund’s revenue- in fiscal year 2022. The County collects property taxes based on appraisals performed about twelve months earlier; the taxes currently being collected by the County are based on appraisals dated before COVID hit the region.

The County will face tough decisions about which priorities to fund. Moreover, it is important the County retains financial flexibility to deal with continued economic uncertainty. The ultimate vision is that, “Harris County will build a more dynamic, vibrant and resilient community while being inclusive, equitable and transparent in all that we do.”

You can view the full outlined Budget Booklet here: [LINK]

JAD held the most recent CJCC meeting on Friday, December 11th.
The issues covered were as follows:

  • Arnold Ventures Funded Projects
  • Racial and Ethnic Disparities Committee
  • Survivors of Crime Work Update
  • Jail Population Trends
Next CJCC Meeting
Thursday, March 11
12:30pm - 2:00pm