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Harris County Jail Pre-sentencing, Texas

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Pre-sentencing

Interview with Julie, Inmate's Sister, Claire, Jim, Inmate's Mom, DK, Smyth, Ken, Charlene, Greg, GMan, Jamie, Leisha, Toby, Joseph, Lisa, Brandy, Consuela, Tiffany, Rachel, Chris, Sandy, Ginger, Craig, Lesley, Ralph, Houston and Tom

JM: Tell us about the pre-sentencing process:
Julie: I was alright not a long wait at all the Judge was cool
Inmate's Sister: at first they tried to give him 8years and he took that to trial and by him having priors already they went on and sentence him 20years because he fit the profile"quote" thats what the da stated.
Claire: I had violated my probation and turned myself into custody. I went down to the county jail, you know, the main area where you go to process release bonds, went to the window, and told the lady what I was there to do. I gave her my name and SPN number, and she pulled up my warrant. She gave me a copy of the warrant and told me to have a seat. I already had a feeling I was going to be there for a while because according to the warrant, I had several "technical" violations against me, the main violation being the charge of Theft by Check.
Jim: After being reset 13 times I was sentenced
Inmate's Mom: He was stopped at 2 a.m. on the 25th of July for speeding and got arrested for DUI. He spent the next 34 hours in custody, although we posted bond as soon as humanly possible.
DK: It was a long wait to find out what I already knew
Smyth: Demeaning to say the least. Are told at very start two things are true: 1. You don't matter 2. You don't matter.
Ken: The process is very invasive. You have to call in once a week and be prepared to go downtown for drug / alcohol test in my case. They also question you. The wait is usually quite long, often in excess of a couple of hours in a loud, crowded waiting room. No one is in a hurry to get anything done.
Charlene: I had been waiting on my disability case. I had documented medical records. The court appointed lawyer I had was pathetic. I had to get my own records & affidavit. The attorney general's office knew this. It was concerning child support. I have been sick.
Greg: Sucked the judges are very hard as well as the time your spent waiting, could be two thing's your nevious as hell to awaite the judge, and than your having an attonrey, on time.. Is a great advice, get the cell # and make sure this never happen's to anyone.
GMan: You are treated as guilty.
Jamie: like any other facility the processing took time. look your there to do your time not enjoy a vacation. what do you people excpect, the faculty is there to do there job not make you feel like you at the holiday inn.be for real. no the food is not great, but you chose your crime and you have to do your time. at least they feed you and give you liquids..
Leisha: deputies are good at getting you booked in. even though it takes hours, with no food and sanitery is very unclean
Toby: well i was out on bond, for about a year before i pleaded guilty. and then the judge gave me another month, to get everything in order before i turned myself in. that was cool, because i needed to take care of some bills, before i went in.
Joseph: when i went in to be booked they jail was overcrowded and they kept the holding tanks unbearably cold. i was given one frozen bologna sandwich to eat from 3 a.m. sunday morning until about 12:30 a.m. tuesday morning when i was released. when i finally got a deputy to listen to what i had to say when i was trying to complain about not getting any food i was told "f* you that's not my problem". The deputies kept threatening to not feed inmates, lose their paperwork for a couple of days, and made violent threats to even the most passive of inmates. when i went to the medical unit for evaluation for xanax withdrawals everyone was shut into a small, extremely hot room and the deputies kept playing random noises and sound clips through the loudspeaker to harass all of the inmates who had been sent there for psychiatric evaluation. also, most of the phones were broken and a few of the holding tanks lacked any way to drink water unless you were to drink it directly from the toilet bowl because the spickets had just enough water pressure to leak out of the edge of the spicket of the already unsanitary drinking faucet.
Lisa: Well this was my first(and by Goddess) last time.I don't remember much "pre-sentence".
Brandy: I was incarcerated 28 hours. My bond was posted within 2 hours of my arrest. It took 26 hours to process before my release. I had nothing to drink and had 2 frozen bologna sandwiches and 2 oatmeal creme pies during the entire 28 hours.
Consuela: I was talked to like a dog. The entire time I was there I seen so much inmate abuse it was a shame. I was told to shut the F*** up by the Harris County Sheriff's several times and that I deserved to be in there...and they didn't even know why I was there.
Tiffany: Pleasant and quick
Rachel: I was unable to post bond and I was looking at 2 years. I had a public defender and I was stuck in jail so I wound up pleading guilty just to get out sooner.
Chris: the pre sentencing processs was just the prosecution stalling for more time and continually rescheduling court appearances when the fact is is that they are just strapped for time and stalling. they keep telling the judge that they need more time while they tried to dig up more of my criminal background.
Sandy: I went to court many times before there was an outcome on my case. I hated this process. You have to be in court at 9 but they wake you up at 3 30 to take you down there and then they make you wait until you are called for court
Ginger: I had to go to court several times because my case kept getting reset and the judge didn't want to give me probation and my lawyer kept trying for me so it took awhile. After many court appearances and a whole lot of waiting, he finally got me the sentence I received.
Craig: There was a Pre-sentencing Investigation done by a Pre-Sentence Officer from the Courts downtown. He came to my house and talked to my Father etc. He had asked questions with my Dad on me and what was going on with me in my life as far as work and what happened as far as the incident concerning my ex-girlfriend.
Lesley: court appointed attorney that just wanted to rush me into pleading guilty so he could get on to the next inmate. Did not want to hear about officer searching me with out a female officer around or that there was no reason for him too pull me over .. ....but later in the process he showed up at my front door

JM: Did you have police stop by your house for questioning? If not please give us details on how you came to be arrested.
Julie: No i Did not
Inmate's Sister: no Claire: No. I had actually called my probation officer to ask her when my next appointment was, and she told me I had a law violation. My only options were to either be arrested at home, at work, or during a traffic stop, or to turn myself in. I turned myself in a week later. I figured I'd rather do it on my own terms than have them have to come looking for me.
Jim: Yes
Inmate's Mom: No.
DK: no
Smyth: No
Ken: No
Charlene: no
Greg: Never,
GMan: No
Jamie: no
Leisha: no
Toby: no the police came to my house, but only to arrest me. they didn't question me or anything like that if it wasen't for the letters ,that i received about a week before i got arrested, form attorneys. i wouln't know i had a warrant for my arrest.
Joseph: no
Lisa: Yes
Brandy: Yes I live on the river and the police were looking for someone that had been poaching deer.
Consuela: Yes, the day of the incident i was arrested at my home but the report says that I was arrested at another residence. In fact it was at the person who accused me of the crimes address.
Tiffany: I was pulled over for an expired registration sticker and I had a warrant out for a prior ticket.
Rachel: Traffic Stop. Found drugs in the car
Ralph: I was surveilled over night. I was arrested the next day as I was backing my car out of the driveway.
Chris: the police never did stop by my house . i came to be arrested by being out at the clubs drinking all night. i ended up getting in a car accident at about two in the morning . i was A PASSENGER in the car and i pannicked and tried to hide in an emty truck in the parking lot . i was charged with burglary of a vehichle
Sandy: Yes, the police came to my parents house to arrest me and there was really no questions they just took me I had warrants and for some other things that had happened My parents had my arrested for some things that I had done to them, They did not questions me they just read my my rights and the process began
Ginger: The police didn't come to my house, I was pulled over while driving intoxicated. I was taken to jail at that time. I was given some tests to check my sobriety level like the breathalyzer test and also walking in a straight line, etc. They determined I was under the influence.
Craig: I had a bench warrant. I was in oregon and my sister told me that the police was looking for me so I waited till after the holidays and came back to harris county. I called the police to pick me up. They picked me up and took me to jail.
Lesley: pulled over for supposedly rolling thru a red light had never been ask to get out of my car till then officer was upset about a accident he had just been in that put a dent in his new suv cruiser i still say he was overly aggressive and high on steroids he stood 6'2" and had muscles every where

JM: What was court like? Please give as many details as you recall.
Inmate's Sister: for the times i did go to court for my brother they didn't even let him defend his self,bascily they talked for him.the guy that was supposed to be invovle told the judge that wasn't the guy who robb me"quote" his words but they still gave him the case.
Houston: The actual appearance is rather short . You spend all of your time waiting to be called.
Claire: Well, my first appearance was in pre-trial, or "TV-court" as the inmates called it. You basically are led down to a "courtroom" where there are benches for the inmates in back of the room, and in the front of the room, there are areas for the judge, the "witnesses" and the "jury," but there was a large TV screen in front of the ceiling in front of what would have been the judge's bench, and the screen is blank when you first walk in. The deputies seat you, and a few minutes later, a female judge comes onto the screen and gives a speech about what is about to happen. Basically, they tell you that this is pre-trial, that you will be read off what you have been charged with and you can either plead guilty, no-contest, or not guilty. The speech is pretty long, and then you have to listen to it in Spanish. Then, once that part is over, another screen will pop up, and this screen is divided into four sections. The top left section will show the inmate (who is also standing there in front of us, but for purposes unknown to me they must also show a live capture of the inmate as his/her charges are read off to him/her), the bottom left will show the prosecutor or District Attorney, and the bottom right will show the judge. The top right portion is usually empty. The only good thing about this is being able to listen to what others are in for, I think.

In total, I went to court four times. The first was for pre-trial, the second was for the probation violation, the third was for the theft by check charge, and I went to probation court again towards the end.

Pre-trial was the easy part. My second "appearance" (and each one thereafter) really weren't appearances at all, as I stayed in a bloody holding cell the whole time, sometimes for hours on end, countless hours. Harris County calls for inmates going to court at around 3 a.m. Mind you, court doesn't officially start until 9 a.m. What do you do for the 5-6 hours before you "go to court"? you ask? Well, first, all the females who are going to court have to be strip-searched. Yup, strip searched. We get to line up d****d near shoulder-to-shoulder along the walls in this cold-a** room (the "gym") and get buck-naked, one piece of clothing at a time. You take off your outer shirt, shake it out. Take off your undershirt, shake it out...bra, panties, socks, shoes, etc. Then (here's the worst part), you turn around, squat all the way down, and cough. To me, that is the most inhumane, most humiliating thing about going to jail. They treat you like you ain't s***. I think some of the guards and deputies think that s*** is funny.

So after that horrible part is over, we hop on the elevators (facing inward, like cattle or something), and go down to the underground tunnel. We line up along the wall, and our names are called one by one, with our court #s and some of us have to change positions in line to better facilitate separation by court number. Some of the inmates act like they're deaf and can't hear their names being called, and others act like their mouths are like engines with the governor left off, they just run and run and run, talk, talk, talk. What the hell is there for you to talk about? The unspoken (and spoken) rule while you are in line is to basically shut the hell up. If you talk while the deputies are trying to do their job, court will literally become an all-day venture. The deputies don't care. They have all day.

When that part is over, you go to yet another holding cell, one designated by court number. The deputy that takes you in there warns you that, "The louder you are, the longer you'll stay in here." But do they listen? Nope. It's bad enough you sit there for what seems like an eternity, waiting on them to call your name to have you sit in yet another holding cell for another eternity, but then you have to deal with the threat of sitting there even longer because these so-called women can't shut the hell up. Go figure. Once the deputy decides to come back and call you for court, you are again separated into more holding tanks by court number. These tanks are adjacent to each courtroom to better facilitate moving the inmate back and forth in between the courtroom and the holding cell, as well as to make it easier for the inmate's lawyer to go to and from the courtroom. Don't ask me how. It's pretty sophisticated, actually.

I never actually "appeared," except for when I signed for my time on the theft by check charge. I went before the judge (in handcuffs and a uniform that was about two sizes too big for me, but thank God one of the girls had braided my hair the night before!), he read off my charge, I pled guilty, and I was sentenced. I was also granted credit for time already served. Then, I went back to the holding tank. All I can say is, if you are an impatient person, shake that s*** off before you go. Their motto is, "Hurry up and wait."
Jim: Well, going to court in Harris Cunty is a terrible process. You are waken up about 330am. You are lead out and go through about 4 holdover cells before you finally make it to the floor of your court room. There are hundreds of inmates going to court and eventually when you mae it to your court there are about 10 or 20 in your courtholdover. There are 4 or 5 windows for you to be able t talk to your attorney. You have no privacy and everyone can hear you talk to your attorney.
Inmate's Mom: Have not appeared yet.
DK: It was a pre sentencing court appearance in which I had one while in custody
Smyth: Meant to wear you down into taking a bad deal.
Ken: I had several court appearances as my case was reset many times. When we actually pleaded the case, the deal or arrangement for my punishment had been negotiated by my attorney and the prosecutor.
Charlene: It was a circus. Both lawyers knew my daughter was not even with her father. They only pushed for child support from me, even though I had won my disability case. The attorny general's lawyer was definitely on a power trip. No one, would have sought the methods she did. Again, she knew my daughter was not with her father. THERE WAS NO JUSTICE.
Greg: It was a big court house, Downtown like everyone else it is a dark, long room, and there is a light the light IM refering to is the door to led out of the court room out of the justice system, the whole thing is depend's on how u dress, act and react be respectfull stand up when called and don't keep ur ears open the people around u will make sure u are not on ur game. make sure u are there to get this over and done with and put it behind u.
GMan: Formal and demeaning.
Jamie: same as allways slow and tiring
Leisha: court appointed attorney are rude, and i believe they work for the courts
Toby: well the first time it was scary, because i didn't know what was going to happen. but after awhile, it kind of got to where i knew what was going to happen. each time i went after that first time it was nithing but reset after reset so i kind of got tired of that.
Joseph: me and about 30 other inmates sat in a holding cell that was unbearably cold and all of the court appointed attorney refused to provide the representation requested by those they were representing.
Lisa: There were a LOT of people in the room.The Judge looked a little grouchy but I had heard he was good.
Brandy: My first court appearance was the day after my release and it was just a quick reset to obtain an attorney before my next appearance.
Consuela: The holding cell was freezing cold and there was no toilet paper in the cell and when someone asked to get toilet paper we were told to shut the f*** up. There was one sheriff that had assisted properly by the name of officer Jefferson. But then he was told to leave us be.
Tiffany: Court was weird. You do everything with the judge by closed circuit television, but it was quick.
Rachel: My family told me whenever my court date was they'd drop off clothes for me. They didn't even tell me I was going to court. I was told to step out of my cell. I had a chain around my waist that my cuffs were locked to and my legs were chained together too. Bright orange jumpsuit with "harris county" written on the back. Everybody in the courtroom was staring.
Chris: court was like this , i am a convicted felon with countless convictions both felonies and misdameanors on my record . the prosecuter has convicted hundreds of people just like me . i have a public defender who is also employed by the same court . i know i dont have a chance . they know i dont have a chance so i take the plea bargain.
Sandy: Court was horrible. I was handcuffed to people who had committed murder and their crime was much worse than mine. They make you wait and wait and wait and somtimes your case gets re-set and then you have to completed the whole process again Courts is very scary you do not know what to expect and your life is in their hands
Ginger: Court was horrible; absolutely no fun at all. It was always freezing cold in there. I always had to wait forever to get my turn because it was incredibly packed all of the time. Even when I got my case reset, it took a long time because there is a lot of paperwork to be done.
Craig: I had to go to a Non-Jury Trial in front ???? of Judge Jeffery Manning. My Attorney was there along with the people from the Court prosecutors etc and my Ex-Girlfriend and her family who were there who was in another room, until it was time to go in the actual court room. I had to sit next to the court reporter at the Stand while the evidence was presented to the Judge and while tapes were played of messages that I left on my ex-girlfriend's cell phone. There was a court reporter there that was typing while I was saying what I said to my Attorney and the District Attorney.
Lesley: female judge 3 female da's one of them was pregnant about to give birth at any time .....i still swear those ladies were trying to make an example of me .trying to make sure i did jail time when its my first offense and im 50 years old at the time

JM: What were your original charges? What did you end up being convicted of?
Tiffany: Traffic warrant
Tom: DWI - 2nd offense
Rachel: Marijuana Possession
Chris: my original charges were burglary of a vehichle and that is what i was convicted of.
Sandy: Failure to appear on a traffic warrant and on theft
Ginger: The original charges and final charges were driving under the influence of alcohol.
Craig: Burglary and I ended up with assault
Lesley: possession less than a gram possession

Read about sentencing in the Harris County Jail

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