HOUSTON (FOX 26) — District Attorney Kim Ogg says Harris County is now diverting away more non-violent criminal defendants from jail than any jurisdiction in the U.S. The announcement preceded Ogg's appeal to Harris County Commissioners Court for an additional 102 prosecutors at a price tag of $20 million a year.
"With the increased number of prosecutors, you get a safer county," said Ogg. "You get people who are not so overworked that they miss something that they shouldn't. You get increased communication with detectives on serious cases. You get continuity of service for victims. Overall, you get a higher-quality justice system."
During the budget session at Commissioner's Court, Ogg clashed sharply with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who suggested felony prosecutions were increasing and many of the defendants in the Harris County justice system should never have been arrested.
Ogg insisted both statements were factually inaccurate.
"When you talk about criminal mischief, domestic violence, DWI, Madam Judge, we can't leave them on the street," said Ogg. "Our domestic violence turns into our murder rate. Our DWIs turns into our manslaughter rate on the roadway. I can't leave the ability for people to commit carnage by simply suggesting that they try harder and do better and we will see them next time."
Later, Hidalgo spoke with FOX 26 News and said she is seeking the kind of data which can justify a $20 million a year taxpayer investment.
"Return on investment is not just how many people are you able to churn through the system," said Hidalgo. "Are we able to make sure that our jail is no longer the largest mental health facility in the state, that our juvenile justice center is not 96 percent kids of color. There are institutions nationally that look at what the right metrics are because it’s easy to pick the wrong thing to measure."
Commissioners Jack Cagle and Adrian Garcia voiced strong support for additional prosecutors which bodes well for District Attorney Ogg's proposal.