Federal Judge Lee Rosenthal has rejected a petition for the emergency release of up to as many as 4,000 inmates from the Harris County Jail. This is in line with the Amicus Brief (read more: https://bit.ly/3be7R6q) filed by Senator Bettencourt and Representatives Harless, Paul, Huberty, Swanson, Cain, Bohac, Murphy, and Oliverson, in the case of Russell vs. Harris County to “object to the wholesale release of individuals accused of felony offenses from the Harris County Jail.” Citing a burden of concerns of the “mass release of individuals accused of felony offenses currently housed in the Harris County Jail” this group of Harris County legislators called for the dismissal of the current lawsuit.
“Ordering mass inmate release has been tried three times now. First, Judge Hidalgo’s overreaching order was stopped. Next, Sheriff Gonzalez and sixteen Harris County misdemeanor judges sued in Travis County but were blocked by the Texas Supreme Court, and now a Federal Court has said no again on an existing federal suit,” said Senator Bettencourt. “This is a victory for the citizens. How many times do these elected officials have to hear ‘NO’ on a mass release of inmates from the jail!?”
Judge Rosenthal wrote clearly in her ruling denying the plaintiffs request TRO to release 4,000 inmates from the Harris County jail: “A federal district court asked to wade into policy and political disagreements among State and County elected officials is in risky territory. There is no good, clearly safe, constitutionally, and jurisdictionally right solution to many of the short-term problems and disagreements the pandemic has made so acute.”
State Representative Dennis Paul added, “We are glad to see that a ruling was made to keep the citizens of Harris County safe as we get through this COVID-19 crisis.” Representative Dan Huberty agreed, adding that her ruling, “…also includes protection from repeat and violent criminals for county citizens.”
The 9 Texas Legislator interveners represent approximately 2 million plus constituents in Harris County which include law enforcement officers, medical workers, veterans, small business owners, parents now educating their children at home, crime victims, and many others who are navigating the difficult circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 panic. There is documented strong opposition to these proposed inmate releases all throughout Harris County.
“Common sense prevails!” concluded Representative Sam Harless.