HOUSTON - The widespread concern over public safety is front and center in this week’s edition of "Texas: The Issue Is…"
State Sen. John Whitmire, the longtime chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, is calling for a bipartisan sense of urgency to restore crumbling public safety across the Lone Star State.
"Data would show we are allowing repeat violent offenders on the streets of Houston and Harris County and other urban centers settings. So, while we tried to fix the bond issue for low-level offenders, it has also allowed more violent offenders to be released," Whitmire said.
The dean of the Texas Senate thinks it’s unheard of that violent offenders and suspected murderers are being released on bond. Then, individuals who violate the conditions of their first bond get another one.
Harris County has at least 180 documented cases of residents being killed by suspects who are out on bond.
"The PR bonds ought to be considered for non-violent, first-time offenders, low-level offenders but not someone who has a rap sheet a mile long. Those folks will go out and re-offend and that's what's leading to the large number of murders," Whitmire said. "I do not apologize for holding armed robbers accountable. We have the means to lock people up when they murder someone, repeat murderers ought to be locked up and held accountable."
As the long-time chairman of the upper chamber’s criminal justice committee, Whitmire has maintained constant oversight of the state's prison system.
He said that since the pandemic struck, the number of convicted criminals incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has dropped by 20%. He knows exactly where the unpunished have sought refuge.
"Most of them are on the streets of Houston, Harris County. I can't emphasize enough when you see someone on TV, that's on video, an armed robber, and he's not captured, they don't have a suspect, that person is doing it again, and again and again," he said.
If Texas doesn’t fix the issue, Sen. Whitmire said it’s only going to get worse.
"We will never reach our full potential if we don’t get public safety under control," he said.