The Monitor’s Role and Principles

The overriding goal of the ODonnell Consent Decree is to reshape Harris County’s pretrial justice system in ways that restore the public’s trust, safeguard constitutional rights, and accomplish the twin goals of bail: to keep the community safe and promote the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The Monitor serves a key role overseeing and supporting this work advancing a holistic, evidence-based approach to pretrial reform that has been missing in other jurisdictions in the past. From the Consent Decree, we distill nine guiding principles:

  1. Transparency – A transparent system keeps the public informed about how and why the system operates as it does—what rules and procedures apply and how effectively the system is meeting its goals.
  2. Accountability – Accountability should be viewed as part of an ongoing process of systemic evaluation and improvement, with community participation.
  3. Permanency – Regarding permanency, the Monitor, must not only evaluate progress, but also ensure that the administrative measures, policies, and processes, can work well long-term.
  4. Protecting constitutional rights – Protecting civil and human rights, including the constitutional rights of arrestees.
  5. Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic fairness – We must continue to measure and remedy disparities concerning racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic unfairness in pretrial detention.
  6. Public safety and effective law enforcement – We must seek to manage risk and improve public safety.
  7. Maximizing liberty – We seek to maximize pretrial liberty and to minimize criminal justice involvement of people in Harris County.
  8. Cost and process efficiency – We will work to measure the wide range of costs implicated by the pretrial misdemeanor system to advise on the most cost-effective means for realizing the goals of a just system.
  9. Evidence-based, demonstrated effectiveness – In our approach to all of these goals, the goal is to produce data and systems so that the system is self-monitoring and can make ongoing improvements.

Thus, this Monitorship reflects a belief that an efficient and effective system, operated on the basis of relevant information and empirical data, will promote social justice while also meeting the goals of law enforcement and public safety.