After months of collaboration, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced wide-ranging policy recommendations from various stakeholders that made up her transition team. The results, or Community Action Plans, address everything from officer-involved shootings to bail reform.
Ogg assembled a group of 60 community leaders, criminal justice experts, attorneys, and law enforcement to study issues that she campaigned on and propose reforms for the office to implement. One of the primary areas was diversion for low-level offenders, of which she said Harris County will continue to see more. “We believe our public wants us to work on cases where people or property are involved and let social issues be handled a different way, through diversion,” she said.
Weeks ago Ogg announced that her office would stop filing charges on trace cases – where the amount of drugs in possession is so small it would be hard to lab-test, let alone ingest. But before that, she started increasing the amount of low-level marijuana offenders being diverted. Her team’s recently proposed reforms push to continue that trend.
“The evidence shows us that locking up low level drug offenders does not stop them from doing drugs or make us any safer,” she said. “We want to use the tax dollars that are a part of the criminal justice system on people that are dangerous.”
Ogg called it a watershed moment in prosecution and criminal justice reform as she released the eight community action plans that were the culmination of hundreds of hours of work by her transition team, saying, “we believe that the community should participate in reforming our criminal justice system.”
“We are evidence-based and data driven, but it is important to know how the community wants tax dollars spent to enhance public safety.”
The group which helped create the reform proposals includes former police chief and council member C.O. Bradford, former Harris County Sherriff Adrian Garcia, and numerous activists and business owners. The group focused on bail reform, diversity, evidence integrity, mental health, officer-involved shooting and civil rights, technology, victims’ rights, and equality in justice.
“We didn’t wait 10 months into this administration to rollout new policy initiatives,” Ogg said. “We started with drug policy reform, with our marijuana diversion program.”
She continued stating that, “We passed Jenny’s law…this committee recommended that victims not be jailed,” referencing the witness who was jailed, assaulted, and forced to testify under previous District Attorney Devon Anderson.
In saying, “while it is an elected position, it can’t be a political positon,” Ogg acknowledges that her biggest challenge will be her political opposites. Regardless, she said she hopes to see her reforms implemented by the end of her first term.
The list of Community Action Plans can be found here.