Harris County Jail inmate release halted by court order, says sheriff

A court order has reversed course on Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's order to release inmates from the county jail.

READ MORE: Harris Co. to release 1,000 non-violent offenders to fight spread of COVID-19

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted the update on Friday afternoon. He wrote, "Per a Court Order just received, halting any further inmate releases related to County Judge Hidalgo’s Order. This is a legal matter and will wait for further information."

Sheriff Gonzalez later tweeted out the full court order he received from Administrative Judge Herb Ritchied.

The order states, "Most of the inmates in the Harris County Jail are defendants charged with felony offenses, whose cases are assigned to one of the 22 Felony District Courts, each of which independently lawfully sit and exercise exclusive jurisdiction in such matters in this County."

It also went on to say, "Only the State District Judges of the 22 Felony District Courts of Harris County, Texas have exclusive constitutional and statutory jurisdiction over all felony cases assigned to their respective courts."


The order demands the Harris County Sheriff, the county Pre-Trial Agency, the Harris County Community Supervisions and Corrections Department "IGNORE and WHOLLY DISREGARD any order and/or directive from the Harris County Judge regarding the issuance of felony Pre-Trial Bonds or Personal Recognizance Bonds or any other order of release, as the same purports affect felony inmates or probationers now in custody of the Harris County Sheriff or the Harris County Community Corrections and Supervision Department, and under the lawful jurisdiction of one of the Harris County State District Courts."

Currently, there are three inmates who tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19, with 30 more awaiting test results and 800 in quarantine.

MORE: Two additional inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Harris Co. Jail, three total cases

Judge Hidalgo's order was issued in the hopes of stopping the spread of the virus at the jail, where there are roughly 8,000 inmates.

Under Judge Hidalgo's order, the releases would not happen until the non-violent inmates go before pre-trial services.

"The jail population is at risk of being the epicenter of a catastrophe a catastrophic outbreak in our county and not just inmates not just the 3000 folks who work in the jail but the entire community who needs the bed space that is in limited supply," said Hidalgo. 

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