“Currently, most Texas jail releases are determined by the defendant’s ability to post cash, but some jurisdictions — particularly Harris County after losses in federal court — have recently shifted to releasing more people accused of low-level crimes on personal bonds, which don’t require cash but can include restrictions like GPS ankle monitoring or routine drug testing,” Texas Tribune writer Jolie McCullough wrote. “SB 6 will ban the release of people accused of violent crimes on personal bonds, requiring instead that they be able to post the amount of cash set by the court, or pay a percentage to a bail bonds company.”
Provisions related to personal bonds are slated to go into effect on December 2, but another element of the legislation requiring a new system for officers of the court to review the criminal histories of defendants before determining bail is set to go into effect in January, The Texas Tribune reported.
“The Damon Allen Act ensures Texas communities are safe and secure by making it harder for dangerous criminals to be released on bail,” Abbott said in a news release. “Texas cities will not follow the lead of Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis; Texas will remain a law-and-order state and continue using every tool available to preserve the safety that Texans deserve. That is why I am proud to sign the Damon Allen Act into law, which will reform our broken bail system in the Lone Star State.” The cities Abbott listed actually implemented law enforcement changes following the death of George Floyd, a Black father killed when a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes. The city of Minneapolis voted to dismantle its police department and reenvision it. Last November, voters passed a ballot initiative in Portland to create a community police oversight board that Vox writer Sean Collins said “once set up, will be the country’s most powerful,” and Seattle slashed its police budget by about $70 million.
It’s a hardly believable coincidence that Abbott, who’s up for reelection next November, zeroed in on cities that saw intense calls from protesters to see Black people treated like people. The former Harris County judge also didn’t attempt to hide which Texas city the new legislation was aimed at. He said Houston has a “serious crime issue…more so than any other part of the state of Texas.”
“The Damon Allen Act will keep Texas communities safe and secure by prohibiting the release on personal bond of defendants charged with a violent offense or who are charged while released on bail,” the governor’s office said in the release. “The bill also requires a defendant be granted or denied bail within 48 hours of their arrest and that a defendant’s criminal history be examined before setting bail.”
The bill, however, only applies to “no-cost and low-cost bonds, meaning those who can afford to post bail will still be able to do so under the new law,” Houston Chronicle staff writer Jasper Scherer explained.
It wouldn’t have kept Dabrett Black, a man accused of shooting and killing Trooper Damon Allen, in jail, activists have argued. Black had previously been convicted of assaulting a deputy, but he was released on a $15,500 bond before being accused of killing Allen, the namesake of Abbott’s new law, The Texas Tribune reported.
“This bill is a giveaway to the bail industry masquerading as a public safety proposal,” Nick Hudson, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said in a news release. “This bill will not make Texas meaningfully safer. SB 6 will make it harder for poor Texans to get out of jail while continuing to allow wealthy Texans to buy their freedom — regardless of how dangerous they are.
“That’s neither safety nor justice. Texas once distinguished itself as a leader in criminal justice reform. Our money bail system is broken and must be fixed, not expanded to line the pockets of the for-profit bail industry.”