Drugs

Bail practices in Texas' biggest county under scrutiny

  • In this Sept. 20, 2016 photo, Bryan Sweeney answers a question during an interview in Houston. Officials in Texas’ biggest county said they’re working to fix problems with its bail system, which criminal justice reform advocates allege unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long and disproportionately affects minorities. For university student Sweeney, the three days he spent at the Harris County Jail in Houston before he could pay his $10,000 bail for two misdemeanor charges, including for driving with a suspended license, cost him a chance to register for classes and graduate this summer. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    In this Sept. 20, 2016 photo, Bryan Sweeney answers a question during an interview in Houston. Officials in Texas’ biggest county said they’re working to fix problems with its bail system, which criminal justice reform advocates allege unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long and disproportionately affects minorities. For university student Sweeney, the three days he spent at the Harris County Jail in Houston before he could pay his $10,000 bail for two misdemeanor charges, including for driving with a suspended license, cost him a chance to register for classes and graduate this summer. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Sept. 20, 2016 photo, Bryan Sweeney answers a question during an interview in Houston. Officials in Texas’ biggest county said they’re working to fix problems with its bail system, which criminal justice reform advocates allege unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long and disproportionately affects minorities. For university student Sweeney, the three days he spent at the Harris County Jail in Houston before he could pay his $10,000 bail for two misdemeanor charges, including for driving with a suspended license, cost him a chance to register for classes and graduate this summer. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    In this Sept. 20, 2016 photo, Bryan Sweeney answers a question during an interview in Houston. Officials in Texas’ biggest county said they’re working to fix problems with its bail system, which criminal justice reform advocates allege unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long and disproportionately affects minorities. For university student Sweeney, the three days he spent at the Harris County Jail in Houston before he could pay his $10,000 bail for two misdemeanor charges, including for driving with a suspended license, cost him a chance to register for classes and graduate this summer. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Sept. 20, 2016 photo, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson answers a question during an interview, in Houston. Officials in Texas’ biggest county said they’re working to fix problems with its bail system, which criminal justice reform advocates allege unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long and disproportionately affects minorities. “Low-level, nonviolent offenders should not be rotting in jail waiting for a trial. That’s just wrong,” Anderson said. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    In this Sept. 20, 2016 photo, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson answers a question during an interview, in Houston. Officials in Texas’ biggest county said they’re working to fix problems with its bail system, which criminal justice reform advocates allege unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long and disproportionately affects minorities. “Low-level, nonviolent offenders should not be rotting in jail waiting for a trial. That’s just wrong,” Anderson said. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)  (The Associated Press)

Officials in Texas' biggest county say they're working to fix problems with its bail system, which criminal justice reform advocates allege unfairly keeps poor defendants in custody for too long.

A July study by the University of Pennsylvania Law School found more than 50 percent of misdemeanor defendants in Harris County are detained until the conclusion of their case, many of them due to their inability to post bail. The study also found misdemeanor defendants who remained jailed were 25 percent more likely to plead guilty.

Harris County's efforts to tackle the problem include having judges use a new statistical tool to help ensure low-risk defendants don't remain jailed.

One university student in Houston says not being able to immediately pay his bail after his arrest on two misdemeanor charges delayed his graduation. But he says others have it much worse.