NAACP honors Harris County DA for criminal justice reform work

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It's a big honor fo Devon Anderson, but some families say she doesn't deserve it because they believe justice hasn't been served in their cases.

On Thursday afternoon, two ballrooms at a South Houston hotel felt like they were a million miles apart. In one room, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson received a prestigious NAACP award.

"I feel like it validates everything that we're trying to do at the DA's office," Anderson said.

In the other room, activists are outraged.

"Why applaud someone who's really not helping all the people?" asked Marian Tolan, whose son was shot by a Bellaire police officer in 2008.

The Harris County DA's office, just like so many others around the country, has recently been the subject of angry protests.

Anger hit a peak last year when a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot and killed 26-year-old unarmed black man Jordan Baker.

"The system allowed no accountability in regards to my son Jordan," said Jordan's mother, Janet. "I know that there's a lot of work to be done."

Anderson was honored by the NAACP for implementing the county's "First Chance Intervention" program, which allows non-violent first offenders to complete community service to avoid criminal records.

Anderson says the vast majority of those participating in the program are African American men, who she acknowledges her office needs to reach out to more.

"I know there are inequalities in the system. We just did a huge data-driven study of the jail, and I know the African American population is disproportionately represented in Harris County," Anderson said. "We have done more in the community and outreach than any other administration."

"I'm not going to beat up on everybody that I'm trying to ask to help us get to where we need to be," explained NAACP Houston President James Douglas. "You can't get to home plate until you get to first base."

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