Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo hints at moving forward with inmate releases

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Thursday, April 16, 2020
Judge Lina Hidalgo hints at moving forward with inmate releases
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Here's how Judge Lina Hidalgo hit back at recent rulings that stopped her order to release inmates amid growing virus cases inside the Harris County Jail.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- During a news conference Wednesday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo spoke heavily on her order to release inmates.

Judge Hidalgo said at least 50 inmates and 100 Harris County Sheriff's employees, including 70 who work at the jail, tested positive for the coronavirus.

She said at least 1,000 inmates are in quarantine inside the jail because they've come in contact with people who have tested positive.

"These cases are growing exponentially, which is what we've heard. Remember, we've got 7,500 people in there," Hidalgo said. "We don't have 7,500 hospital beds. Five inmates are already hospitalized."

She said she's been in contact with other judges asking them to move forward with her order, which would release inmates accused on non-violent crimes.

RELATED: Harris Co. halts inmate releases after 1st offenders leave jail

"It's deeply disappointing that some folks are out there saying that we're releasing violent criminals. I think folks should be called to task for lying and inciting panic in a time of crisis," Hidalgo said.

She said after speaking with doctors, the jail's population must be brought down to around 5,000 inmates to be able to safely practice social distancing.

Hidalgo also added that the number of cases in Harris County are steadily rising due to the amount of testing.

"We're able to double our testing capacity at our existing sites and create two new mobile sites," Hidalgo explained.

She said her team is looking at zip codes and communities where people are in need of tests so they can send pop-up testing sites.

Harris County is also offering free drive-thru testing in Harris, Fort Bend and Galveston counties.

"The sites we received from FEMA are meant to be regional, so of course the two sites the county created won't turn you away if you're not from Harris County," Hidalgo said.

Between public and private testings, Harris County has nine free drive through sites, Fort Bend County has two and Galveston County will have two starting Thursday, April 15.

Almost all sites require you to call and schedule an appointment, but none have residential limitations.


63 Harris Co. jail workers and 46 inmates now with COVID-19

Judge Hidalgo signs order to release up to 1,000 inmates