Harris County approves new bond policy to settle lawsuit

The way it's been in Harris County is a murder suspect who had the money could get out on bond, and a trespasser who didn't could languish in jail. Three years ago, a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional.

Harris County commissioners have been working on this new bond system for months and indeed, many of the reforms it calls for have been in place since March,  and this simply locks them down. Some bondsmen don't like it.

"Just like you can't lock everybody up, you can't let everybody out either. That's balance," said Mario Garza.

But criminal justice reform activists do.

"We'll say it again, bail is a wealth test," said Pastor Henry Price.

Price himself had been arrested for trespassing while homeless and couldn't make bond and spent time in jail.

Reforms to implement the settlement will cost the county between $55 million and $97 million money will come from the contingency fund.  The county already spent $10 million fighting the lawsuit.  Supporters on the court say this rights a historical wrong.

"For the system to last this long, there were people in power who either didn't know that it was wrong or didn't care," said Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

And he says the old system penalized the poor, didn't reduce crime and costs taxpayers too much money by keeping low level offenders in jail.

Opponents on the commissioners court blasted it for not taking victim's rights into account, being too expensive, and  being a back-room deal.

"Every single page, every single page, to be submitted to commissioners court, confidential. Confidential. Confidential.  And I think that sucks," said Commissioner Steve Radack.

It passed 3-2 along party lines.

"Do we have to work at improving out criminal justice system more broadly? Yes and I look forward to input from my colleagues, but this is about ic plying with the constitution of the United States, " said Lina Hidalgo.