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Duke Law Federal Court Monitor’s Report:




A quick summary of the incredible positive impact ODonnell has had in terms of avoiding family separation, avoiding convictions, and reducing costs, I put together a quick list of bullet points:


  1. Misdemeanor case filings have declined since 2015.In 2015, there were 50,614 misdemeanor cases filed, compared with 44,407 cases filed in 2019 and 38,198 cases filed in 2020. (Third Monitor Report.)


  1. Pretrial release has increased dramatically in misdemeanor cases.87% of cases in 2019, and 84% of cases in 2020, were released prior to first setting, which typically occurs the first business day after arrest, as compared to 60% of cases in 2016 and 57% in 2015. (Third Monitor Report.)


  1. Another measure of pretrial release is the percent of people who are detained when their cases resolve, which has also decreased dramatically. In 2016, 40% of people arrested for misdemeanors were still detained at the time their cases resolved. In 2019, the percent detained at disposition decreased to 15%, many of whom were subject to detainers from ICE or holds from other jurisdictions or had concurrent felony charges. And by 2020, the detention rate decreased to 10%. (Harris County Pretrial Services Annual Reports, https://pretrial.harriscountytx.gov/Pages/Annual-Reports.aspx.)


  1. On the felony side, where no formal bail reform has occurred, increased scrutiny and voluntary changes have nevertheless caused the pretrial detention rate to decrease from 60% in 2016 to 45% in 2019 to 35% in 2020. (Harris County Pretrial Services Annual Reports, https://pretrial.harriscountytx.gov/Pages/Annual-Reports.aspx.)


  1. The vast majority of misdemeanor cases (about 68%) now end in dismissal, and only about 28% of cases result in conviction.In 2015 and 2016, about 60% of cases ended in a conviction, and only 31% (in 2015) and 35% (in 2016) were dismissed (or acquitted). Since Rule 9 went into effect in Jan. 2019 as a result of the federal litigation, those numbers have been reversed. In 2019, 30% of cases resulted in conviction, and 67% were dismissed/acquitted (the numbers in 2020 were 28% conviction, and 68% dismissal/acquittal). (Third Monitor Report.)


  1. Many fewer people are required to pay secured bond for release. In 2016, 83% of initial misdemeanor bonds set were secured, and 17% were unsecured. In 2019 and 2020, those numbers were reversed: about 20% of initial bonds were secured (22% in 2019 and 18% in 2020) and about 80% were unsecured (77% in 2019 and 83% in 2020). (Third Monitor Report.)


  1. Bail bond companies’ profits from misdemeanor bonds have dramatically decreased. Although 20% of initial bonds set were secured in 2020 (often so that the person on a detainer can receive time served credits), only about 11.5% of misdemeanor defendants actually paid secured bail for release that year, compared with 49% of misdemeanor defendants who paid secured bail for release in 2016. (Harris County Pretrial Services Annual Reports.) As a result of the decreased use of secured bond, the Monitors estimate that bail bond companies profits have decreased significantly, from approximately $4,431,916 in 2016 to $506,485 in 2019—about $3.9 million lessthan before the ODonnell lawsuit was filed. (Only four months of data were available for 2020. An estimated extrapolation for 2020 was $654,966 in profits from misdemeanor cases.) (Second Monitor Report.)


  1. Recidivism—as defined by whether a new case was filed against a person within 90, 180, or 365 of an initial case filing—has not increased.The percent of people arrested for misdemeanor offenses who have a new case filed against them within 90, 180, and 365 days of the initial case filing has not increased between 2015 and 2020.


  1. Specifically, the percent of people arrested for misdemeanors with new-case-filings: within 90 days has held steady at about 11% between 2015 and the first half of 2020; within 180 days has held steady at about 16% during the same people; and within 365 days has declined slightly from 24% in 2015 to 21% in 2019 (and to 23% in the first half of 2020). (Third Monitor Report.)


  1. Racial disparities in pretrial release have been significantly diminished. In 2015 and 2016, about 50% of people arrested who were identified in the data as Black were released pretrial, and about 68% of people arrested who were identified in the data as White were released pretrial. (NOTE: “Race” in Harris County is typically recorded based on the observations of the arresting officer, and the category “White” includes people who the jail identifies as Hispanic or Latinx. “White” and “Black” are the only categories currently available in the data.) By 2020, over 80% of people identified as Black and about 85% of people identified as White were released pretrial. (Second Monitor Report.)


  1. Bail reform has resulted in significant cost savings.Many fewer people are detained pretrial post-ODonnell, saving the County $74/person/day in jail costs. The Monitors also calculate that cost savings to people detained include $90/day detained in lost income and $526/person/60 days of detention in loss of housing, among numerous other costs. (Third Monitor Report.)


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