It was last week when the Insite received a tip. I was told a Harris County Commissioner was concerned about the local pretrial services division performing a job they shouldn’t.

That’s monitoring defendants who posted cash bonds until they’re ajudicated in the county. That meant Harris County Pre-trial Services Division was spending $2 million dollars a year in resources to monitor these individuals who posted financial or surety bonds.

Eventually the Harris County Attorney stepped in back in October and rendered a decision. The legal staff indicated it was not the job of Pretrial Services to monitor these defendants. That left Harris County judges in a tough predicament. Who will now monitor the people who post cash bonds until their trials?

Some suggested how about the bail bondsmen who are paid to ensure they show up in court.

It’s been two months since the inquiry into handling defendants began and judges are now scrambling to find someone who can legally under state law keep an eye on those who are out on bond.

Presiding Judge Mike Anderson issued this statement last week:

Recently, the Harris County Attorney issued an opinion that precludes Harris County Pre-Trial Services from supervising defendants on financial/surety bonds, a service the agency had provided to the criminal courts for many years. The criminal district courts are now trying to devise alternative plans for the supervision of defendants who do not qualify for personal bonds. One such alternative is to refer these defendants to the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department for supervision. Under current statutes, courts can order conditions –such as electronic monitoring and drug testing –to be imposed on defendants released on bond and designate HCCSCD as the pretrial supervisory agency for those defendants. Since the county attorney’s opinion was issued, HCCSCD has taken over monitoring defendants on financial/surety bonds who are by statute required to have ignition interlock devises installed in their motor vehicles. Other alternatives include allowing the private bond industry to take over the supervision. Several pretrial supervision alternatives are being studied that balance the safety of the law abiding public with a defendant’s constitutional right…

Judge Mike Anderson

Harris County

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