Policy & Innovation

Justice & Safety

Commissioner Briones is committed to protecting every individual and family in Harris County through a holistic approach to justice and safety that addresses the criminal justice system from beginning to end. Precinct 4 promotes fair and equitable policies and programs that address root causes, provide resources to vulnerable populations, and create a justice system that works for all residents.

The Precinct 4 vision for a holistic justice and safety system includes diversion options for reducing unnecessary involvement in the justice system; reducing the court backlog to ensure speedy justice; fair and effective indigent defense; support for victims; and place-based crime prevention initiatives.


Key Initiatives

Diversion from the Justice System

  • Holistic Assistance Response Team (HART) – The Holistic Assistance Response Team (HART) sends trained clinicians and EMTs to respond to certain calls for service. HART began as a pilot in north Harris County (Cypress Station area) diverting non-violent mental health-related 911 calls. This frees up law enforcement to focus on violent crime while ensuring that residents are connected to necessary resources. Under Commissioner Briones’ advocacy, HART expandedinto Precinct 4 [summer 2023] to serve residents in the unincorporated part ofthe precinct and will soon expand into Precinct 2. 
  • Youth Diversion Center – Commissioners Court has approved federal funding to create the Harris County Youth Diversion Center, which will divert kids with low-level offenses away from the justice system and provide them with round-the-clock mental and social services. 

Reducing the Court Backlog

Hurricane Harvey and the COVID-19 pandemic created a criminal case backlog. The backlog has delayed justice for victims and defendants, and increased costs to the County. Precinct 4 is committed to continuing investments and initiatives to reduce and eliminate that backlog. 
  • New Courts - Commissioner Briones spearheaded a justice & safety package that included a resolution supporting state legislation to create six new District Courts in Harris County. The new courts should reduce caseloads for the other judges and further decrease the criminal case backlog. 
  • Court Resources Fund – Commissioner Briones’ justice & safety package also included a request to create a Court Resources for Best Practices Fund. Once implemented, this program would provide judges with the support they need to implement best practices to reduce the backlog and jail population while protecting public safety.  
  • Court Backlog Investments – Harris County Commissioners Court has approved $40 Million in federal funds to reduce the backlog including funding for evidence management at the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s Offices, funding for Emergency Response Dockets and associated staffing to help work through backlogged cases, and funding to support the County’s Institute of Forensic Sciences. On June 6, 2023 the Commissioners Court approved an additional $25 Million to continue those initiatives. To date, there has been a 40% decrease in felony and a 44% decrease in misdemeanor backlogged cases.  

Fair & Effective Indigent Defense

Regardless of ability to pay, all residents have a right to fair and effective representation. Precinct 4 is committed to strengthening and expanding Harris County’s indigent defense system.  
  • Expansion of the Public Defender’s Office – Another component of Commissioner Briones’ justice and safety package was a directive for the County to begin expanding the Public Defender’s Office with the long-term goal of reducing the cost to the County. 

Support & Advocacy for Victims

Victims must have a voice and the support they need to navigate the system and feel safe again. Precinct 4 is committed to ensuring that programs and services are easily accessible for victims, including victims of trafficking and family violence. 

  • TeleDeputy – In a unanimous vote on June 27, Harris County Commissionersapproved $1.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to the HarrisCounty Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) TeleDeputy Unit. By expanding theTeleDeputy Unit, the Sheriff’s Office will be able to free up patrol deputies torespond more rapidly to 911 calls involving urgent, critical matters, includingcalls related to violent crime and domestic violence. HCSO aims to reduceaverage response times for Priority 1 calls by nearly 30%, from 14 minutes to10 minutes, and reduce the response times for family violence calls across allHCSO Districts by 10 minutes because of this TeleDeputy support. 
  • Domestic Violence Fund – Commissioners Court approved a $4.7M agreement with the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC) to administer the Domestic Violence Assistance Fund which provides flexible assistance and wraparound services to survivors of domestic violence through grants to community-based organizations. The HCDVCC selected 20 nonprofits that now receive those funds to support survivors.  
  • Survivor Services in Immigration Law (SSIL) -- Commissioners Court approved $500,000 for a two-year program to support immigrant survivors of crime. The SSIL program expanded local non-profits' capacity to provide legal and wraparound services for those survivors to help them through reporting, testifying, or obtaining immigration protection.

Place-Based Crime Prevention

Crime Prevention efforts can be targeted in areas that have been historically underserved through infrastructure and public health investments, which can reduce crime in the short and long term. 
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) -- Commissioners Court has allocated $25 Million in federal funds for crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) initiatives to improve infrastructure while reducing short- and long-term crime trends in high-needs communities. $3 Million is being used for the Nuisance Abatement Program to eliminate nuisances such as abandoned homes, trash, and pests. Commissioner Briones secured $2 Million for the Alief Street Forest Initiative, which aims to plant up to 1,200 trees in Alief to increase tree canopy, reduce the heat index, and reduce crime. Precinct 4 is committed to securing additional funding and working with partners to implement more CPTED projects. 
  • Lead Abatement – There is a clear connection between lead exposure in childhood and the long-term likelihood of becoming involved in the justice system. Crime prevention starts in childhood. The County has invested $20 Million in federal funds into the Lead Abatement and Prevention Program, which is abating lead in Harris County homes and expanding testing to identify families that may be exposed to lead.