Lawmakers push for 6 new felony courts, amendment to Texas constitution in hopes of stopping revolving door
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Harris County will be the focal point when lawmakers in Austin take up bail bond reform.
State Senator Joan Huffman filed Senate Joint Resolution 44. It would allow judges to deny bond to the most violent criminals.
BREAKING BOND: 19-year-old accused robber, who caused lockdown at southwest side high school, free from jail on bond
"This is critical to the safety of the citizens of this state, and I'm going to keep fighting until I get it done," Huffman said.
"If passed, Texans will have the opportunity to either vote for it or against it," said Maritza Antu, former judge of the 482nd Criminal District Court. "It's another tool judges statewide would have in their toolbox to make decisions they feel are right."
The state constitution only allows judges to deny bond to defendants charged with capital murder. The resolution would include violent and sexual offenses.
"You're talking murder, aggravated sexual assault, human trafficking, sexual assault of a child, aggravated robbery, kidnapping," said Andy Kahan with Crime Stoppers.
Representative Ann Johnson is sponsoring a bill that would add 6 more felony courts to Harris County.
"Obviously you've reported on the backlog and overcrowding of the jail," Antu said. "I know there's a push to expand more dockets and creating my court certainly reduced some of the backlog. But I was one of 22 courts."
BREAKING BOND: 24-year-old ex-con free from jail on total of 31 felony bonds, exceeding more than $1 million
The 482nd Criminal District Court began operating in October 2021. It was the first new felony court in Harris County in some 40 years, even though the population has doubled.
"It's a win for defendants who might be languishing in the county jail," Kahan said. "It's a win for victims who've been waiting years and years to see their case go to court."