ISSUE

House Bill 20 would require individuals–presumed innocent but accused of a crime–to pay for release from jail. It would take away judicial discretion to release large categories of people on personal bond. This means that people who do not have money would have to stay in jail indefinitely, while people with money would be able to purchase their freedom by simply writing a check to post bail or using their homes as collateral. It would also require use of discriminatory risk assessment tools for anyone who cannot afford to pay for their release.

When a person can’t afford to pay bail, the only way to get out of jail is to either plead guilty or go to trial. Offers are often made well before the trial date to guarantee that a person will plead guilty rather than sit for weeks or months waiting for trial.

Research shows that three days in jail can upend a person’s life, putting them on a path towards additional crime and needlessly trapping them in the maze that is our criminal justice system. People who can’t afford to pay their way out of jail before trial can lose jobs and vital income, miss rent payments, skip medication, and even lose custody of their children. Pleading guilty just to get out of jail is not an informed decision, and there is a higher chance that an innocent person will plead guilty just to go home.

The Texas Senate Jurisprudence Committee voted on Thursday (May 13) to put HB 20 on the local and uncontested calendar. But HB 20’s language is identical to Senate Bill 21, which eight Senators voted against. This is a controversial bill, and it should not be on the uncontested calendar! There should be floor discussion on House Bill 20.

TAKE ACTION

Contact the members of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee to ask that HB 20 be pulled off of the local and uncontested calendar.

You can say/write…

My name is ______. I live in _________ and my zip code is ________. I am contacting you today to ask that House Bill 20 be removed from the uncontested calendar in the Senate. HB 20 would require individuals–presumed innocent but accused of a crime–to pay for release from jail and require use of discrimanatory risk assessment tools for anyone who cannot afford to pay. The language in HB 20 is identical to Senate Bill 21, which eight senators voted against. This is a controversial bill that should have floor discussion. It should not be on the uncontested calendar!


House Jurisprudence Committee Members

  • Carol Alvarado, carol.alvarado@senate.texas.gov, 512-463-0106
  • Cesar Blanco, cesar.blanco@senate.texas.gov, 512-463-0129
  • Sarah Eckhardt, sarah.eckhardt@senate.texas.gov, 512-463-0114
  • Roland Gutierrez, roland.gutierrez@senate.texas.gov, 512-463-0119
  • Jose Menendez, jose.menendez@senate.texas.gov, 512-463-0126
  • John Whitmire, john.whitmire@senate.texas.gov, 512-463-0115
  • Judith Zaffirini, judith.zaffirini@senate.texas.gov, 512-463-0121