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HOUSTON – 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.