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Though Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo, a Democrat, signed an emergency order to temporarily release felony inmates from the Harris County jail, and seven were slated to release today, that order has been countermanded by a local criminal district court judge.

On Friday, Judge Herb Ritchie of the 337th Criminal District Court ordered Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and the Harris County jail to ignore the order issued by Hidalgo under threat of contempt of court. To quote directly from the order:

“THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED and DECREED that the Sheriff of Harris County, Texas, as well as Harris County Pre-Trial Services Agency and the Harris County Community Supervisions and Corrections Department, SHALL IGNORE and WHOLLY DISREGARD any order and/or directive from the Harris County Judge regarding the issue of felony Pre-Trial Bonds or Personal Recognizance Bonds or any other order of release, as the same purports to affect felony inmates or probationers now in the custody of the Harris County Sheriff or the Harris County Community Corrections and Supervision Department, under the lawful jurisdiction of the 22 Harris County State District Courts.”

Now Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, a Democrat, has stated he has halted inmate releases pending further information.

Republican State Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston told Gonzalez he should have never listened to Hidalgo.

Bettencourt had previously spoken out against Hidalgo’s order, saying Houston could experience a “crime bomb” if it were to be carried out.

How to handle the Chinese coronavirus in jails has been a challenge for governments across the nation, with many employing the “let the inmates out” method that Hidalgo wanted to implement in Harris County.

Texas Scorecard will continue to monitor this situation.