HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Nearly 300 defendants were released from the Harris County Jail after a computer glitch prevented them from being processed into the system.
KHOU 11 News learning this is the fourth time the system has crashed in this way in the last few years.
The "J-Web" system was down for nearly two days — from 7 p.m. on March 24 to 9 p.m. on March 26, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office (HDAO).
The more than 280 people who were in custody during that time were unable to get a probable cause hearing, so a magistrate ordered their release.
"You have more than 280 people who essentially got a get out of jail free card roaming around," said victim's advocate Andy Kahan with Crime Stoppers.
The HCDAO issued the following statement on the situation:
“The latest Harris County Universal Services’ computer-system failure has the full attention of the district attorney, police chief and sheriff because it resulted in the temporary release of accused criminals. The safety of the public, security of our criminal justice system and efficiency of our courts demand that the county give Universal Services the resources to fix this and ensure it never happens again.”
Per the judge's order, many were released on personal recognizance bonds and others on $10,000 bonds.
"Not one of them had any bond conditions whatsoever that may be specific to the type of offenses they're accused of," said KHOU legal analyst Carmen Roe.
The Harris County Administrator's Office has confirmed these were all misdemeanor, non-violent offenses.
"It's an embarrassment. We're the third-largest city in the nation and to have this situation infest our criminal justice system is just unheard of, but more people need to be concerned because it creates a real public safety issue," Roe said.
Kahan said the public needs to know who these defendants were and what charges they're facing.
"History tells you that someone will pay the price on this, and I'm hoping that's not the case," said Kahan. "This is an eye opener and you hope it's a one time anomaly."
KHOU 11 has requested the list of those who were released along with charges they were facing from HCSO officials.
KHOU 11 reporter Marcelino Benito is following this story and will have more details on KHOU 11 at 6 p.m.