Houston’s "cite and release" policy, which attempts to ensure people who commit certain low-level offenses aren’t arrested and jailed, has been used sparingly and disproportionately and not for most Black people who qualify for it, the Houston Landing reports. Only 19 people have been issued a cite and release ticket this year by any of the five law enforcement agencies in Harris County that participate in the program. Meanwhile, there have been five deaths of people in Harris County jail custody this year. Police are opting to arrest many offenders who were initially eligible for a cite and release ticket.
The low-level offenses that qualify for the program include minor thefts, contraband in jail, graffiti, driving without a valid license, vandalism or possession of under four ounces of a controlled substance. If those charges are accepted by the district attorney, the defendant can be instructed to appear in 'cite and release'' court three weeks later. Only 342 of the 539 citations reported by Harris County’s various law enforcement agencies since 2020 were issued correctly. Black residents were arrested in cases eligible for cite and release at a rate that was 3.6 times higher than white residents.