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A Computer Failure Releases Nearly 300 Harris County Inmates


March 31, 2022

By Natalie Cook Clark

A computer outage resulted in close to 300 Harris County Jail inmates being released when their required probable cause hearing wasn’t met in time. Crimes of those released are heavy in DWIs.

Around 280 Defendants Released

According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, around 280 defendants were released from the Harris County Jail when a “computer systems failure” interfered with inmate rights. It is required to have a probable cause hearing within 24-48 hours of being arrested. While this incident has received much public attention, sources say that it isn’t the first time.

Not The First Failure

“To me this is unprecedented,” says Andy Kahan, Director of Victim Services for Crime Stoppers Houston, who says he was told that this has happened before. “That’s even more troubling because it’s not just a one-time fluke.”

The Harris County Universal Services Computer System crashed and was down March 24-26. It is suspected that this occurred during an update.

“It’s troubling and embarrassing,” says Kahan. “There is no way to sugar coat it.”

Kahan received a partial list of those who were released and says it appeared that two-thirds were DWIs.

“I don’t like how we’ve downgraded DWIs,” he says. “It is a fatality waiting to happen.”

Kahan expressed concern for the victims of those released. “When someone is bonded out there are assurances like ankle monitors, restrictions, etc.,” explains Kahan. “When they are just released, like in this case, no one is notified.”

HCDAO's Responds

The Harris County District Attorney's Office issued the following statement on the situation:

“The latest Harris County Universal Services’ computer-system failure has the full attention of the district attorney, police chief and sheriff because it resulted in the temporary release of accused criminals. The safety of the public, security of our criminal justice system and efficiency of our courts demand that the county give Universal Services the resources to fix this and ensure it never happens again.”

Defendants will need to be rearrested, a process that concerns many.

“It’s a waste of time when our law enforcement is already short staffed,” says Kahan. “Like in every disaster you have a plan. If the power goes out, you have a generator. Where was the plan for this?”


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