Vol. 22 | August 2022
We are thrilled to announce that the Harris County Justice Administration Department has changed its name to The Office of Justice and Safety. in the upcoming months OJS will make all necessary modifications to reflect our name.
Commissioners Court approved the change in our department’s name to better reflects the overarching Justice and Safety goal of Harris County that states: Harris County will promote safe, healthy, thriving communities through restorative and evidence-based strategies that foster public trust, prevent violence and trauma, reduce racial and economic disparities, and minimize criminal justice exposure where at all possible.
The newly named Office of Justice and Safety (OJS) is designed to be a think tank for Harris County. OJS will continue to serve Commissioners Court, work with the Office of County Administration, and support criminal justice and safety stakeholders while partnering collaboratively to assist the various key system actors to fulfill the goals and vision of the County. In particular, OJS will continue working to advance innovative approaches to justice consistent with the County’s Justice and Safety goals listed above.
This is an exciting time for the team, as well as for our partners and stakeholders as we continue offering research and data to help create a just, safe, and disparity-free community. 
For more information, visit the OJS website here.
News & Information on Policy Work by OJS

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, CJCC, met on August 18th to discuss the jail population, criminal case backlog trends, and efforts to continue developing solutions to these issues that have plagued our criminal justice system since Hurricane Harvey and throughout the pandemic.   

The Chair of the Council, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, welcomed new member, the Honorable Judge Genesis Draper, who is the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Courts at Law. The Council voted for chair and vice-chair and re-elected Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to serve in those capacities for another year.  

Commissioner Ellis articulated the goal of the meeting, which was to receive an update on the state of our jail population and court backlog. Deputy County Administrator of Justice and Safety Perrye Turner led the discussion, which included providing an overview of trends and key data points throughout the system. He shared some of the work members of the new CJCC Jail Population Subcommittee are exploring to address the case backlog and the jail population.  
Ron Cherry from Harris County Sheriff's Office updated the Council on jail population and data trends. Council members discussed various issues affecting the jail population and how stakeholders can work together to address these issues.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez spoke about the effort to re-purpose the Little Baker Jail to house 400 to 500 minimum and medium security female defendants, potentially freeing up much-needed space while having a positive impact on the lives of the women housed in Little Baker through greater programming offerings targeting their needs. Turner shared that the Harris County District Court active cases pending have experienced a 16 percent decrease.  

There was robust discussion on improvement strategies from District Attorney Kim Ogg, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, Honorable Kelli Johnson, Alexa Aragonez with Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office. Commissioner Adrian Garcia brought up the importance of effectively addressing issues with evidence, and Honorable Judge Kelli Johnson articulated some of the challenges courts are facing while highlighting the strategies they have implemented to address the criminal case backlog. DA Kim Ogg spoke about the importance of automation and a uniform system to capture evidence. Additionally, the council discussed information on the breakdown of evidence analysis for each respective agency, city, county, and DPS as an issue to be taken on with the case backlog issues. Overall, the participation of members demonstrates their commitment to addressing the challenges we face in the Council, which presents us with an opportunity for committees to dive deeper into topics discussed.  

Council members were given a Jail Population report put together by the Office of Justice and Safety (OJS) at the request of the Council. The report provides observations, trends, and data points from July 2020-July to 2022 on the jail population, including data on pretrial detainees, post-adjudication, and other critical categories. OJS is working on enhancing and updating the report monthly to disseminate the information to members regularly.  

Dr. Ana Yáñez Correa, Interim Director of the Office of Justice and Safety, asked the Council to review a list of questions related to data points to help address the rising criminal case backlog and jail populations as a region. She emphasized to members that this data could help inform future discussions and reports. Commissioner Ellis thanked Council members for working towards keeping the community safe and healthy and the criminal legal system fair and efficient.  
Commissioner Rodney Ellis and the members of the CJCC recognized Stephanie Armand, Program & Special Projects Administrator for the Office of Justice and Safety, for her dedication and hard work on the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. 

Stephanie left her position with OJS to take on the Criminal Division Operations Manager role with the District Courts. She will be missed by all from OJS and the CJCC.

The CJCC presentation can be found here, along with the documents from the meeting. 
Have you heard? Harris County Public Health is hosting a Violence Prevention Conference on August 30 and 31. Themed A Holistic Approach to Public Safety, the conference will be unique in highlighting a public health approach to violence prevention. For two days, national and local leaders will gather to examine the issue of violence plaguing communities across America. Conference sessions will address an array of topics, including Root Causes of Violence, Family & Domestic Violence, Guns & Mass Shootings, Violence & Social Determinants of Health, Reducing & Preventing Violent Crime, Community Engagement, Partnerships and Outreach, and much more.

A host of incredibly dynamic speakers are scheduled to present, including author and columnist Charles Blow, juvenile justice expert Elizabeth Ryan, and senior advisor and thought leader in violence prevention Dr. Chico Tillman, to name a few.

Public Health collaborated with a number of Harris County departments, including the Office of Justice and Safety to plan the conference and ensure its success. Representatives from OJS participated in conference committee meetings, assisted with recruiting speakers and participants, and contributed to the development of conference topics. OJS team members will also represent the department at the conference, either working behind the scenes or participating in sessions.
The conference will be an incredible opportunity for all attendees who work in this shared endeavor to reduce violence in our Harris County and Texas communities.
Interested in participating? Space to attend virtually is still available. For additional information, a list of speakers, or to register for the conference, visit www.bit.ly/hcphvpc
ODonnell et al. v. Harris County et al. is a class action lawsuit that was filed in federal court in 2016, alleging the bail practices for misdemeanor arrestees in Harris County were unconstitutional. The parties involved in this lawsuit reached a settlement agreement in November 2019. All parties recognize that the input and involvement of Harris County residents will be essential to meaningful and lasting reform and to the effective and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the system.
Since October 28, 2020, OJS has hosted a semiannual ODonnell Consent Decree Public Meeting virtually. The hour and a half public conversation included presentations of updates and goals regarding the ODonnell Consent Decree and bail reform in Harris County.
On Friday, October 7, 2022, at noon, The Office of Justice and Safety will host the first in-person Public Meeting at the Harris County Administration Building, 1001 Preston St., 9th Floor Commissioners' Courtroom. Additionally, a Public Meeting will be held virtually on Thursday, October 13, 2022, at 6 p.m. These events will provide a platform for the in-person and virtual audiences to interact through a Q&A with the Defendants, Plaintiffs Attorney, and Monitor.  

The Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council has been holding their Campaign to Increase Community Knowledge of the Intersection of Domestic Violence Cases in the Criminal Justice System since March. HCDVCC has hosted five of six deliberate dialogues with community partners to discuss various domestic violence and criminal justice topics. For their final Deliberate Dialogue, HCDVCC has invited the Office of Justice and Safety to discuss their work and how this impacts the criminal justice system with a specific emphasis on domestic violence survivors.
This deliberate dialogue will be held virtually on September 29th from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m
You can register in advance for the Deliberate Dialogues: Domestic Violence Cases and The Intersection of Criminal Justice here: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZckdO-sqzooGNIpFWIh_67SHay2fvaEqS8Z

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
The Office of Justice and Safety (OJS) team members attended the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Youth Citizens’ Police Academy at the Baldree Center on August 10th! Around 40 local kids attended this year’s academy where they learned about animal safety, parks, and business, and even received a visit from the K-9 Unit.
The HCSO Community Engagement Police Athletic Activities League (PAL) Deputies were able to connect with the kids and help them build confidence and courage in public speaking. The kids developed vision boards and made new friends in a safe environment. OJS is grateful to HCSO for inviting our team to witness their community engagement efforts first-hand!
Spotlight on Media & News Announcements

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez recently hosted County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Commissioner Adrian Garcia, and Deputy County Administrator for Safety and Justice Perrye Turner at the HCSO Media Room for a press conference to detail how the county’s spending on public safety has been working to make a difference. During this press conference, Perrye Turner debuted a brand-new public safety spending website, SAFEHARRIS designed to present a full accounting of Harris County’s spending on initiatives to keep the public safe.

Unfortunately, violent crime has increased all across America in the past few years, and Harris County is no exception to this trend. In Harris County, violent crime rose between 2019 and 2021. Murder increased by 46.23 percent, and assault increased by 33.15 percent during this time.
One of the County's top priorities is to ensure that our residents live in a safe, healthy, and thriving community. In doing so, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved a $1.3 billion budget dedicated to justice and safety for the short fiscal year which ends on September 30th. This amount equals approximately sixty-four percent of the entire Harris County budget.
Ensuring public safety is one of the core functions of county government takes a collaborative effort amongst all Harris County departments. It means coming together to ensure we help create a safe and healthy community for our residents. It also means that as a county, we must be transparent with the work done by our County departments, partners, and stakeholders on public safety. 

As a result, the County developed the SAFEHARRIS.COM website to provide transparent and informational insight into the collaborative work and multi-million-dollar investments implemented to enhance Harris County's public safety.
SAFEHARRIS.COM is a living, breathing, ever-evolving domain. The website will be updated with initiatives and programs as the County develops further public safety-related initiatives. This website focuses on four key areas: Community - investments in alternative public safety measures and partnerships; Courts - investments in Harris County, including courtrooms, prosecutors, and judges; Law enforcement - investments and programs related to law enforcement; and Youth Safety - investments in programs to help increase safety, justice, and awareness regarding our community’s youth.
When viewers log onto SAFEHARRIS.COM, they will see both the Justice and Safety goal for Harris County and an option to download or scan a QR code for a one-pager that showcases a breakdown of the multi-million dollar investments that the County is putting towards public safety. As you scroll down the website, you will notice multiple squares. Each square represents an investment, project, or initiative in public safety.
SAFEHARRIS.COM is designed to give the public a full view of the financial investments and programs being developed and implemented to aid Harris County's Justice and Safety goal, which states: Harris County will promote safe, healthy, and thriving communities through restorative and evidence-based strategies that foster public trust, prevent violence and trauma, reduce racial and economic disparities, and minimize criminal justice system exposure where at all possible.

These public safety initiatives are here to help fight rising crime rates in a sustainable and impactful way that will yield positive results for years to come.  

Earlier this summer, Commissioner Tom Ramsey spearheaded a proposal for the Harris County Safe Schools Commission, which was unanimously approved by Commissioners Court. The goal of the Commission is to create recommendations on how Harris County can help schools open safely and identify other proactive measures stakeholders can take to improve school safety. One of their recommendations included adding more mental health resources for schools. Commissioner Ramsey made a proposal to allocate ARPA funds for mental health resources within schools to include more counselors, software developments to help students in mental distress, and other tools deemed necessary by Public Health, the Safe Schools Commission, and Resources for Children and Adults Division. The item was unanimously approved by Commissioners Court.

Also, in June law enforcement agencies throughout the county and city attended the School Safety Summit hosted by Commissioner Ramsey, Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen, and Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman. Over 30 representatives from nearly 20 different agencies participated, all of whom either patrol or respond to school emergencies. Based on the reports from Uvalde and previous atrocities, they determined follow-up meetings were necessary in order to unify emergency response. The second meeting was held in August, where over 100 attendees discussed ways to improve radio communications during an emergency that requires a response from multiple agencies.
“The goal is to get all the key people in a room to exchange ideas for safe school solutions from a law enforcement perspective,” said Commissioner Ramsey. “Some may find other agencies running into the same issues, while other agencies used to but figured out solutions. Now they can meet, talk, and implement – and there you have it. We're a step in the right direction for safer schools.”
It doesn’t stop there, as Active School Shooter Response Trainings for law enforcement were ramping up, Precinct 3 Constable Sherman Eagleton identified their need for tourniquets, a lifesaving resource that law enforcement uses to stop bleeding from injuries. Commissioner Ramsey donated 200 to their deputies shortly after. While the law enforcement trainings are closed to the public, Precinct 3 collaborated with Constable Precincts 3, 4, and 5 to host Civilian Active Shooter Trainings that are free and open to all. Dates for future classes can be found www.pct3.com.

Commissioner Ramsey remains resolute in the benefits of bringing experts together, listening to their needs, and carrying out proven solutions to protect our children, teachers, and schools.

Hundreds converged on the Fresh Start Resource Fair in North Houston last month, eager to sign up to be screened for misdemeanor criminal record sealing, pick up school supplies for their kids, and access other key community services.
Fresh Start helps eligible non-violent, low-level misdemeanor offenders get back on track after experiences with the criminal justice system by sealing their criminal records and connecting them to support services through community resources fairs.
Free and open to the public, the fairs connect community members to programs offering job training, adult education, food, and transportation assistance, help to apply for state benefits, immigration and citizenship support, COVID vaccinations, mental health, and voter registration, among other things. Because of its late summer date, the latest fair also offered a backpack and school supplies giveaway for 200 students.
Fresh Start is the inaugural program offered by BAYOU City Community Court, an initiative developed by the Harris County misdemeanor court judges to encompass their community outreach efforts. For more information about Fresh Start and upcoming events, visit www.ccl.hctx.net/comcourt.htm.
Harris County’s Domestic Violence High-Risk Team (DVHRT) Wins Prestigious Purple Ribbon Award

The Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC) houses the Harris County Domestic Violence High Risk Team (DVHRT)) initiative. This team is a homicide prevention model that was first organized in 2018 after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office was awarded a grant from the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV). In 2020, the project moved to the HCDVCC for continued support and oversight. The DVHRT was formed to reduce lethal and near-lethal intimate partner violence (IPV) assaults and to audit the entire domestic violence response system by identifying gaps in service and protection.
In 2019, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center (JGCC), which developed the DVHRT concept and is a national training and technical assistance provider, accepted Harris County as a technical assistance site to help refine the team and explore ways to expand the model to handle the considerable number of high-risk cases that are identified within our large, populous county.
In 2022, the Harris County Domestic Violence High-Risk Team won a Purple Ribbon Award in the category of Urban Initiative of the Year by DomesticShelters.org. The Purple Ribbon Awards is a program honoring heroes of the domestic violence movement, including survivors, shelters, advocates, and programs. This award is presented to those who are making a substantial positive impact on the lives of domestic violence victims and survivors.
Across social media, you may notice the hashtag #SinceHarvey. Many County departments are sharing stories of strength, compassion, and rebuilding our communities. Please take a moment to explore the tag and share your stories.

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