Bail: Reforming Policies to Address Overcrowded Jails, the Impact of Race on Detention, and Community Revival in Harris County, Texas

Johnson, Marcia, Johnson, Luckett Anthony | January 1, 2012

Starting in the 1970s, the U.S. federal government and many state and local governments adopted “get tough” policies against crime. These new strict policy initiatives produced an explosion of incarceration in prisons throughout the country. They also impacted local jails as well, particularly in the numbers of persons detained pre-trial. This Article explores this phenomenon and its implications for local governments, as well as its unforeseen consequences on communities, particularly communities of color. The Article uses Harris County, Texas to exemplify the systematic problems resulting from the over-jailing of its citizens, particularly persons who are detained pre-trial. We attempt to show that with some changes to local policies and the development of new initiatives, Harris County could substantially reduce its jail population without increasing crime, at a substantial savings to the county in both monetary and human capital.