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Criminal Justice

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In Harris County, New Efforts to Treat Mental Illness In and Out of Jail

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One of the contributors to Texas’ slowly dropping incarceration rates is a growth in diversion programs that address problems like addiction and mental illness.

Harris County, for example, recently doubled its number of crisis intervention response teams, which include trained deputies and mental health clinicians who answer 9-1-1 calls where mental illness may be a factor.

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Report: Texas Death Penalty System Needs Top-to-Bottom Reform

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The ABA report makes recommendations on every stage of Texas’s capital punishment system. Law enforcement should use model practices when dealing with eyewitnesses; interrogations should be videotaped; biological evidence should be safely preserved and defendants should be able to have it tested. Crime lab standards should be standardized and test results verified independently and often. Texas should use national standards for arson investigations, give juries better instructions, and provide adequate counsel for defendants in every stage of the process.

Yet even if these and all the other recommendations were all followed, Anthony Graves would not be satisfied.

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Jail hands

Study: In Harris County, Poor Defendants Get More Time

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The study found that detained defendants had it worse all around. They were less likely than bond defendants to receive deferred adjudication or probation. And they were about half as likely to have their charges dismissed. That means in addition to having spent time in jail before their trial—which, obviously, the bonded defendants didn’t—detained defendants were likelier to get additional jail time.

Finally, among bonded and detained defendants who were sentenced to jail, the detained defendants received longer sentences. In brief, for being poor, they’re punished twice.

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