Friday afternoon, Judge Herb Ritchie countermanded Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's prisoner release order and ordered a stop to any release of county jail inmates charged with a felony.
In his "Order to Disregard Directive," Ritchie, the administrative judge for the Harris County Courts Trying Criminal Cases, said that all such prisoners fall under the purview of the 22 Felony District Courts and they and only they "have exclusive constitutional and statutory jurisdiction over all felony cases assigned to their respective courts."
On April 1, Hidalgo had ordered the release of what was expected to be about 1,000 inmates out of the 8,000 now house d in the jail. No one charged with a crime of violence or with a history of crimes of violence, accused of a burglary of a habitation or who was facing a third DWI charge would be eligible for consideration for release. The object was to reduce the spread of the coronavirus among the packed conditions in the jail.
Only a handful of inmates were released before the felony court judge's directive went into effect.
Here is the order:
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.