Harris County commissioners consider options to improve criminal justice web system

Pooja Lodhia Image
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Commissioners consider options to improve criminal justice web system
Harris County commissioners are considering new tactics almost a year after 100 inmates were released during a system shutdown.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- More than a year after a system shutdown caused more than 100 people charged with crimes to be released from jail, nothing has been done, and officials admit it could happen again.

On Tuesday, Harris County commissioners debated ways to improve the web program that's responsible for our county's criminal justice system.

The system went down for two days during a system update in March 2022, and defendants had to be released because, by law, suspects are supposed to appear before judges within 24 hours for misdemeanors and 48 hours for felonies.

On Tuesday, the Harris County district clerk and a judge told commissioners the system is often miscoded or incorrect, which causes major delays in a county that already has a large criminal case backlog.

READ MORE: Investigation underway into outage that released more than 100 Harris County jail inmates

"There are judges that are being impacted not only by shutdowns but by things that are being done with the coding in the background that affect their ability to issue orders, their ability to manage the cases, their ability to conduct hearings have been affected by thousands of cases," Harris County local administrative justice, Judge Latosha Lewis Payne, said.

The system is currently maintained by a county department that runs all of Harris County's I.T. operations.

The members of the Justice Technology Committee, which include the district clerk's office, the district attorney's office, the sheriff's office, the district courts, and the county courts, are asking the members of Commissioners Court to transfer governance to a newly-created department whose executive director would report to the five JTC co-chairs.

"When you have arrestees that are released without a probable cause hearing, that's a public safety issue," District Clerk Marilyn Burgess said. "When you can't get a warrant issued in a timely manner, that's a public safety issue."

Budget officials are working to get information on costs and other impacts.

County commissioners will vote this summer on the change.

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