Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is releasing roughly 1,000 non-violent criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to those in custody.
"In order to protect public safety we will not release individuals who have been convicted of violent crimes, crimes that involve physical violence or the threat of physical violence," said Hidalgo.
Judge Hidalgo says science and public health officials continue to be her North Star when making decisions regarding the pandemic.
"The bottom line is the jail population is at risk of being the epicenter of a catastrophe," she added. "It's a catastrophic outlook in our county threatening not just inmates, not just the 3,000 folks that work in the jail, but the entire community who needs the bed space that is in limited supply."
"We've got to reduce the population as much as possible. There's no room for politics when it comes to this decision. And it's the only choice we have.
Houston's police union is not happy with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's decision to release a thousand "non-violent" jail inmates during the coronavirus pandemic. Union President Joe Gamaldi calls it the next step in bail reform.
"They've taken a sledgehammer to this issue instead of a scalpel, and now we're releasing a thousand people who are just free to commit more crimes... So while we're barely struggling to hold the line during a global pandemic, she's going to make our job that much harder."
Andy Kahan is the victims' advocate for Crimestoppers. He calls the release order "the beginning of the purge":
"The harsh, stark reality is that property offenders wreak more havoc on a community, usually more than violent offenders do. So you have to keep that in perspective as to how we define 'nonviolent' offenders."
Kahan says Harris County judges already are allowing violent offenders out of jail on personal recognizance bonds.