Chairman James White Applauds Governor Abbott’s Bail Reform Emergency Item

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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AUSTIN, Texas – State Representative James White previously sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking that he prioritize bail reform as an emergency item. Governor Abbott did just that on Monday night during his State of the State address.

“Texas has been a leader in criminal justice reform through innovative practices that focus on improving safety and reducing recidivism—and bail reform should not be the exception. Texas must take careful consideration when approaching reform so as not to follow other state’s policies that have resulted in unsafe outcomes,” wrote Rep. White on his letter dated January 28th, 2021.

As discussed in Chief Justice Hecht and David Slayton’s most recent op-ed, Texas should provide magistrates the most modern tools available to aid in the unique decision-making process. By introducing a validated-risk assessment tool across the state and providing accurate and timely access to criminal records, magistrates can use their judicial discretion to make more informed decisions when determining bond. Defendants who magistrates deem low-to-no risk should not sit behind bars solely due to financial incapacity. In the case of defendants who are deemed high-risk, magistrates should have a variety of bail and bond options that prioritize public safety, including the denial of bail.

Governor Abbott’s remarks highlighted the concerns Rep. White addressed in his letter. Additionally, the governor mentioned his support for the Damon Allen Act. Damon Allen was a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who gave the Ultimate Sacrifice while maintaining safe communities. The Act was filed after Damon Allen’s killer was let out of jail on a $15,000 bond despite previous convictions, arrests, and violent assaults against our Law Enforcement Officers on his record. The broken bail system failed Trooper Allen by not upholding public safety and keeping dangerous criminals from our communities. Rep. White plans to file legislation in line with the Act to ensure that we bring up our bail system to 21st Century standards.

“Solutions to this threat to public safety are available and it is critical we move swiftly and carefully when moving toward a risk-based system,” concluded Rep. White.