From Houston Public Media:
Carlos Caldwell, who lives in public housing in Houston’s Third Ward, worked as a substitute teacher until a year ago. That’s when he said he was pulled over for not having a front license plate, told he had a warrant for passing a bad check, and arrested.
Caldwell says he didn’t do it. He waited in jail for four days without seeing a judge, until finally he learned the details of his case from another inmate’s attorney.
“I know the bond is $100. I don’t have any family here, I really don’t have any friends here, and I don’t have $100,” Caldwell said. “[The attorney] said, ‘Well, if you plead not guilty, it’s going to take about two weeks and it’ll have to go to trial. And so you’ll be here for two more weeks.’”
Caldwell said he was terrified, so he pleaded guilty, thinking that would be the end of it. It wasn’t. Caldwell lost his job, then his home.
It’s stories like Caldwell’s that outrage criminal justice reform advocates. And those advocates have found their target: Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who is up for reelection this year and is set to face an unexpectedly tough Democratic primary.
Ogg, who campaigned and was elected as a reformer in 2016, is now feeling pressure from some progressive Democrats who feel she failed them by pushing to hire more prosecutors instead of reforming the bail bond system.
One of those reform advocates is Tanuke Smith, who, when asked if she knew how she planned to vote in the upcoming DA’s primary, said, “I do. Not to vote for Kim Ogg.”
Smith and others recently argued against Ogg’s request for an increase in funding to pay for more prosecutors, at a meeting of Harris County Commissioners Court. Like Caldwell, Smith found herself in jail for a crime she says she didn’t commit and pleaded guilty to get out when she couldn’t afford bail. She too has been unemployed ever since. She blames Kim Ogg, who as DA opposed a plan to eliminate cash bail for indigent defendants and allow them to bond out on their own recognizance.