Computer glitch leads to 118 Harris County inmates to being released from jail

Jessica Willey Image
Thursday, March 31, 2022
118 Inmates released from Harris County jail due to system outage
A number of inmates at the Harris County Jail were released after there was a glitch in the county's universal service's computer system, authorities said.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- About 118 people accused of crimes including indecent exposure, DWI and racing were released from the Harris County jail last weekend due to a computer outage that prevented them from getting a probable cause hearing.

The Harris County Universal Services computer system, used by all law enforcement agencies to file charges, was down from March 24 through March 26, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Sources say it happened during a system update.

The computer system crashed last Thursday night in a failure that stretched out into the weekend.

As a result, the sharing of data on arrested criminal defendants was halted. Unfortunately, crime occurs at all hours of the day, so when arresting officers were taking suspects to jail, the data needed to approve and/or reject charges was not reaching the justice system.

In a letter to law enforcement agencies, the DA's office said the system failure threatened public safety, and explained that it brought everything inside the processing center to a standstill. Hundreds of defendants sat for hours, and when they couldn't see a magistrate before the required time, a judge ordered that they be let go. Suspects are generally supposed to see a magistrate within 24 hours for a misdemeanor and 48 hours for a felony, the letter said.

On Wednesday, ABC13 obtained the list of those who were released and their charges. They are mostly non-violent but at least a dozen have criminal histories that include violent offenses.

Adrian Alonzo Taylor was arrested last Thursday for indecent exposure and released before seeing a magistrate or given any bond conditions. The alleged victim is his neighbor.

"He unzipped his zipper and pulled it out. I was totally disgusted by it," said Ashlyn. "I'm mostly worried about my little sisters' safety. I have three other sisters in this house."

The DA's office told agencies that officers needed to refile charges. Some of those released would need to be rearrested. Court records show Taylor was rearrested Wednesday afternoon.

Defense Attorney Emily Detoto's client was released after he waited for at least 40 hours to see a magistrate. She believes his constitutional rights were violated. He was facing his second DWI charge.

"I believe a lot of lawyers will be seeking to have their cases dismissed because of this glitch," she said. "When we lose electricity in the house we have a generator as a backup. I find it hard to believe in a county as big as ours, in this day and age, we don't have some backup system to prevent this from happening."

In response to the glitch, the DA's office sent the following statement"

"The latest Harris County Universal Services' computer-system failure has the full attention of the district attorney, police chief and sheriff because it resulted in the temporary release of accused criminals," said Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. "The safety of the public, security of our criminal justice system and efficiency of our courts demand that the county give Universal Services the resources to fix this and ensure it never happens again."

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