Abolition Working Group

Sign up to speak at the County Commissioners Court meeting on August 25. Please register to speak by August 25 at 8 am. The hearing begins at 10 AM.

Below, find our script, why we’re organizing, our demands, and phone numbers of County officials.

Script

Use our script to call our county officials (names, numbers, and emails found at the bottom of this page) and demand that virtual visitations be made free and bail funds be accepted by electronic payment means, immediately!

“Hello, my name is [X] and I am deeply concerned about the health and dignity of the people incarcerated at Harris County Jail. I’m speaking to you today to ask for three things: 

  1. First, I ask that you end the process of solitary confinement as a preventive measure for the spread of COVID. It is inhumane and unthinkable to keep human beings in isolation  for 23 hours a day. I am asking you to please advocate to the necessary agencies for the compassionate release of as many incarcerated people as possible and for the end of this cruel practice. 
  2. Second, update County technology to accept electronic funds transfers for pre-trial detainees. Family members of incarcerated people are showing up in person and being exposed to COVID, to deliver cash to bail out their legally innocent loved ones who are waiting for their day in court.
  3. Finally, allow incarcerated people to make calls to their friends and family members via Zoom for free. Without any family visitation rights, it is exploitative to force incarcerated people to pay $5.99 for a 20 minute virtual call to see their loved ones while they spend the rest of the day in isolation. Securus Technologies is a corrupt organization that has already been shown to steal fees and should not be in business with the County. 

We are watching, and we demand that people in Harris County Jail are treated humanely. It’s your responsibility to ensure that this happens.

Why We’re Organizing

The County Commissioners Court presides over a number of regional issues that are out of jurisdiction for the City of Houston. Harris County presides over the County Jail and Sherriff’s Office Detention Facilities. County Commissioners are rarely targeted for their involvement in legislating and overseeing a court system that criminalized poor people and people of color. All too often, courts are the only place to get support with substance abuse issues, domestic violence disputes, and many other mental health challenges that the carceral state only knows how to resolve by punishing victims. 

Community organizations and members of the Houston Abolitionist Collective are working to bail out people who are currently sitting in Harris County Jail, legally innocent and awaiting trial but unable to afford bail. Harris County Jail was named one of the top 10 COVID hotspots in the US. Top level officials like DA Kim Ogg have failed to eliminate cash bail reform after promising to change the system. They are the reason why innocent people are not walking free.

Our Demands

  • End cash bail

In the short term, loved ones of people in pre-trial detention need a way to electronically transfer bail funds to the County. With a cash-only system in place, family members have to visit the Jail in person, thus being exposed to COVID, to deliver cash funds.   This practice is not only archaic and out of date but deeply unsafe. Commissioners need to know that we’re watching them sit by while the corrupt cash bail system remains in place. We demand an end to cash bail and immediate support for pre-trial detainees who are eligible for release. 

  • Waive profits in third-party contracts

Harris County has a contract with corrupt technology provider Securus Technologies. Securus and Harris County charge $5.99 per 20 minute Zoom phone call to incarcerated people, including those in pre-trial detention. This expensive feature is completely taking the place of in-person visitation rights. Securus’s contract with the County guarantees that the government can profit off of incarcerated people. Not only is Securus enabling the County to use exploitative fee structures to siphon money off of people already enduring hardship in the justice system, but Securus is also suspected to hide profits from government partners thus keeping more for itself and widening its profit margin. We demand that County Commissioners pass a resolution waiving all County profits that pass fees onto incarcerated people in their family members through exploitative and corrupt third-party contracts. 

  • Depopulate Harris County Jail

Currently, people incarcerated at Harris County Jail are being kept in solitary confinement to prevent the spread of COVID. The only strategy that a carceral state knows to improve public health is deeper incarceration. This is inhumane, undignified, and unacceptable. This practice is a violation of incarcerated peoples’ rights and has no place in Harris County. As abolitionists we not only demand abolition of police forces at the City and County but also the abolition of prisons which are corrupt, for-profit institutions that serve no rehabilitative purpose in our justice system. To this end, we demand that the County end the practice of solitary confinement to prevent the spread of COVID and instead begin the depopulation of Harris County Jail. We demand the end of carceral systems of abuse that criminalize Black and brown people seeking help, fail to improve public health, and erode the dignity and human rights of incarcerated people.

Call County Officials Any Time

Call on August 24 to put the pressure on before the public hearing on August 25.

  • County Judge Lina Hidalgo:
    • 713-274-7000
    • judge.hidalgo@cjo.hctx.net
  • Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis:
    • 713-274-1000
    • Comm_Ellis@cp1.hctx.net
  • Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia:
    • 713-274-2222
  • Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack:
    • 713-755-6306
    • pct3@pct3.com
  • Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle:
    • 713-755-6444
    • commissionercagle@hcp4.net
  • Sheriff Ed Gonzalez:
    • 713-221-6000
    • sheriff.gonzalez@sheriff.hctx.net
  • County Treasurer Dylan Osborne:
    • 832-927-6865
    • truinfo@hctx.netCounty