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August 23, 2009

"Thousands languish in crowded jail"

The title of this post is the headline of this effective article in today's Houston Chronicle.  Here is how it starts:

More than half of the 11,500 inmates crammed into the Harris County Jail have not yet been found guilty of a crime but await their day in court confined with convicted criminals in conditions that repeatedly flunk state and federal safety inspections.

The most common accusation against them: possession of a crack pipe or minuscule amount of drugs.

Though the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial, at least 500 county inmates have been locked up for more than a year as they wait to be judged, according to an analysis of inmate data by the Houston Chronicle.

About 1,200 have been jailed six months or more though many face only minor felony charges, such as bouncing checks, credit card fraud, trespassing or even civil violations.  In fact, around 200 inmates, theoretically innocent until proven guilty, appear to already have served more than the minimum sentence for the crime they allegedly committed, based on the newspaper's analysis of inmate data provided by the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

August 23, 2009 at 10:53 AM | Permalink


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It kinda surprises me that some enterprising young lawyer doesn't take up the cause of getting the speedy trial and unreasonable bail clauses incorporated against the states. Even if the particular inmates you start with are released during the pendency of litigation you are likely to have others graduate into the same position. It might not be as sexy as some areas of criminal law but you would be more likely to help a bunch of people at once if you succeeded.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 23, 2009 11:49:03 AM

1. The news article doesn't address: (1) what the cases have said about what "speedy" means, or (2) the fact that the Texas Constitution also has a speedy trial provision.

http://www.constitution.legis.state.tx.us/ [Art. 1, Sec. 10]

2. If the right to a speedy trial has any teeth in Texas and requires only that a lawyer make a motion, then that sounds like a good pro bono or clinic project.

Posted by: anonymous | Aug 23, 2009 1:01:03 PM

What the left wing garbage propaganda does not say is that, in many cases, any friend or relative with $100 can bail many of them out. But... everyone is better off with those people in a cage, including the prisoner. People will not bail them out intentionally. Often the prisoner is a helpless addict, and being in jail will save his life. About a third have a major mental illness and are very dangerous in the street. In jail, they get pressured to resume treatment that helped them before.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 23, 2009 3:19:20 PM

It's Texas. Doesn't any more really need to be said.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 23, 2009 4:13:32 PM

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