Pretrial Disparity

RACIAL INEQUITY IN HARRIS COUNTY'S PRETRIAL SYSTEM

Pretrial Disparity

RACIAL INEQUITY IN HARRIS COUNTY'S PRETRIAL SYSTEM

Problem

Racial minorities are overrepresented in Harris County’s pretrial jail population. Black defendants make up 50% of jail bookings despite being only 20% of the population. Bail practices have been found to discriminate against the poor and minorities.

Background

Harris County’s population is 30% White, 20% Black, and 42% Latino. However, 50% of pretrial detainees are Black and 22% are Latino, meaning 72% of the pretrial population are people of color. Pretrial detention disparately impacts minorities by disrupting employment, housing, and childcare. Black defendants are also less likely to receive pretrial diversion compared to White defendants.

 

Policy Recommendations

  • Identify and address patterns of racial disparity in pretrial detention and diversion.
  • Increase use of pretrial supervision and diversion programs, ensuring equitable minority participation.
  • Examine policing practices like patrols, stop and frisk, and officer discretion that contribute to disparate arrest rates.
  • Adopt measurable strategies across agencies to actively reduce identified racial disparities.
 

Key Takeaways

  • Stark racial disparities exist at multiple stages of Harris County’s pretrial system.
  • Cash bail and pretrial detention policies disproportionately affect minority defendants.
  • Concrete policy changes are essential to increasing pretrial equity.
  • Further research into the causes and solutions to disparity is still required.