HOUSTON (FOX 26) - #RaceJusticeTX was a trending Twitter topic on Thursday. Community leaders gathered for a panel discussion about disparities in the justice system.
"There's been a disparity in the way laws have been enforced, especially when it comes to drug laws," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. She joined the panel of Houston-area criminal justice leaders for The Atlantic Race & Justice Houston discussions.
"When we overpolice drug crimes in Third Ward and not in River Oaks, we lower the property values in those areas by calling them high crime," added Ogg.
It's been a little more than one year since Ogg's diversion program launched, giving first-time low-level drug offenders the chance to avoid the criminal justice system.
"When we keep people in the workforce and allow people the resources to be employed, we are a safer society," said Ogg.
But the broader issue of disparity in Houston-area jails was at the forefront.
African Americans make up only one fifth of Harris County.
"A large percentage of our jail population are pre-trial detainees," said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
"We could operate faster, time is of the essence," added Sheriff Gonzalez. "Every day, someone's in jail impacting the family, community at large."
Sheriff Gonzalez agreed with the sentiment of many people in Houston that was is needed is bond reform.
"When you have somebody commit violent crime and they bond out, they get out," said Sheriff Gonzalez.
One in three people in the Harris County jail system are said to have a mental health condition. Harris County has a pilot program to help officers better handle people with mental illness.
"We can get on a laptop, connect with a psychologist 24/7 to...convert them from the justice system," described Gonzalez.
Community leaders want to see an even more integrated system to help solve such underlying issues that lead to run-ins with the law. They encourage people in Houston to join the greater conversation with the hashtag topic #RaceJusticeTX on Twitter.