Since Texas Won't Fix Its Broken Bail System, Some Dallas County Judges Will — and Here's How

In September, a federal judge made a ruling that should have upended Dallas County's criminal justice system. The county's bail system was unfair to poor people, the judge said. Or, as the ACLU thunderously put it: "FEDERAL COURT ORDERS DALLAS COUNTY TO STOP UNCONSTITUTIONAL BAIL PRACTICES."U.S. District Judge David Godbey said Dallas County needed to stop setting bail without first considering whether a defendant could actually afford it. And, he said, Dallas County would have to come to that determination pronto — "within 48 hours of arrest." Which was a perfectly legitimate and logical thing to say when you consider that hundreds of people accused of committing nonviolent crimes are in the county lockup at this very moment because they can't cough up as little as the $150 they need to stay free while they wait for their day in court.Reforms seemed imminent. Except nothing has really changed since Godbey handed down his ruling.Yes, the county spent a few million to comply with the order that stems from a case filed by civil rights groups on behalf of a few Dallas County defendants. Then came the appeal, filed by the county and felony judges, which stuck the reforms in limbo — the defendants, too. At least, those who can't make cash bail.But here's a secret: A handful of frustrated criminal judges in Dallas County have taken bail reform into their own hands. And they're doing so with District Attorney John Creuzot's blessings and encouragement.  Continue reading...

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