Gov.Abbott Blunders Again, Interferes with Jail Releases

photo of Governor Greg Abbott
Governor Greg Abbott

Abbott Wants Poor People to Stay in Jail

It wasn’t enough that Governor Greg Abbott issued a stay at home order then immediately nullified the benefits of that order by saying religious services were exempt. Now he has decided to stick his fingers into bail bonds decisions. Abbott issued an executive order that, according to the Texas Tribune,

“…that suspended much of the state’s bail laws and banned the release of people in jail accused or previously convicted of violent crimes without paying cash bail.”

What the actual Executive Order says, is that these people cannot be released on a personal recognizance (PR) bond. That means, they would have to come up with the cash to pay their bond. Note that the magistrate has already determined that the person can get out of jail if they post their bond. Again, THEY ARE ALLOWED TO GET OUT OF JAIL.  Abbott’s executive order specifically targets poor people. There is no other way to look at it. He obviously hopes people will not be able to get out because they lack the money to do so.

Note: The executive order effects more bail laws than personal recognizance bonds. See link above for more information.

Bexar County Leaders Worked to Protect Everyone

Our County and City leaders worked hard to protect everyone. A jail is not much different from a cruise ship in that people are in a confined space, in close quarters, that they are unable to leave. Judges have been very lenient with bail bonds and allowing people out on PR bonds, often with stipulations like monitors or rehab. This has allowed the Bexar County jail population to decrease by approximately 770 inmates. The fewer people there are in the jail, the fewer people who can get sick if the virus spreads to that facility.

Keeping as many people out of the jail as possible is not just good for the general public but it’s good for the officers and civilians who work there. These people are already at increased risk. We shouldn’t be making it worse for them.

Harris County Fights Back

Harris County has done a complete 180 after being placed under a consent decree. We wrote about how they were violating people’s constitutional rights which lead to the consent decree. Since then, they have worked hard to ensure people are treated fairly and nothing shows that more than their willingness to disregard Governor Abbott’s executive order. Harris County has filed a lawsuit against Abbott’s executive order but they are ignoring it regardless, using the fact that they are under a consent decree as justification. The consent decree is from a federal court which places it above state orders.

The Texas Tribune article on Harris County fighting back (a different article from the one linked above) has the following quote,

“The Order is likely unconstitutional under state and federal law. But regardless of whether it is ultimately challenged and/or implemented, [it] does not affect any terms of the pre-existing … consent decree,” said Brandon Garrett of Duke University School of Law.

Why Did He Do It?

This leaves the question of why Governor Abbott chose to insert himself into the bail bonds process. He says it’s to keep violent criminals off the streets during this stressful time. But if that’s what he believes then this man, who was an attorney and has been a judge, does not believe in the foundation of our legal system which presumes a person to be innocent until proven guilty.

Could it be that his conservative beliefs of poor people being more likely to be criminals is coming into play? Or maybe it’s something like the lobby for the bail bonds industry whispering in his ear because the current process is hurting their revenues? Whatever the reason, him doing it because he cares about the public is doubtful. He is supposedly a Christian man yet he doesn’t seem to care if religious people go to services and get sick and die. And he doesn’t seem to care about the immigrants being held in cages on the border. Yet we’re supposed to believe he issued the executive order because he cares about the safety and welfare of Texans?  No. There is something else there. We just don’t know what it is yet.

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