Hurricane Harvey ripped through the city of Houston and created some lasting damage. What some may not know is that Harvey’s rains didn’t just hit residential areas, but Houston’s criminal justice system. The Criminal Justice Center located in downtown was swamped because of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The building has and remains shut down until the flooding has cleared and the pipes are fixed.
The debacle has forced Houston’s criminal justice system to rewrite itself overnight. The District Attorney’s Office had to temporarily shut down due to damage from the storm. Now 700 DA employees have been distributed among ten locations throughout Houston.
Houston courts are also forced to creatively tackle the problem. Many criminal court judges and cases must share courtrooms with civil and family judges. Jury duty selection has also dwindled since the underground jury assembly room has sustained massive flooding. Potential jurors must now head to an assembly room in the County Administration building’s cafeteria.
The problem with this is how it can affect defendants. People who can’t make bail may find themselves stuck in jail for quite some time. Managing attorney Tyler Flood emphasized this point by stating “People who are in jail and they say, ‘I’m not guilty. I don’t want to plead guilty, but now I know I can’t go to trial for months. That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them to plead guilty so they can get out of jail.”