Frequently Asked Questions

A:Yes, Click here for more information.

A:No, Inmates will not be available for visitaion during processing or while at court.

A: No, Inmates receiving medical treatment at a hospital or clinic are prohibited from receiving visits.  

A: To visit inmates housed outside of Harris County, contact the appropriate housing facility for visitation date, times and procedures. The current out-of-county facilities being utilized by the HCSO are:

Newton County Correctional Facility
2402 East Court St
Newton, TX 75966
(409) 379-3000
LaSalle Correction Center
15976 Hwy. 165
Olla, LA 71465
(318) 495-6200
West Carroll Detention Center
180 Capital Bank Dr
Epps, LA 71237
(318) 926-4626

A: Yes, upon entry, all inmates are screened for both medical and mental health issues at the Inmate Processing Center (IPC).  Before being housed, inmates will be evaluated by the screening nurse, checked for communicable diseases and have the opportunity to provide prescription medication information.  The Harris County Jail has medical professionals to deliver services in dental, optical, prescription, medical and mental heath care.    

A:No, but they can make calls, Click here for more information.

A: No, all pharmaceuticals will be filled by the HCSO full service pharmacy.  

A: Inmates being released will exit the Inmate Processing Center through the northwest sally port located at 1201 Commerce Street in downtown Houston.

A: The person receiving the inmate’s property must appear in person between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the facility where the inmate is housed. The person receiving the property will present appropriate identification to the Deputy at the Visitor Control Center, who will initiate the process. After obtaining the appropriate authorization from the inmate releasing the property, the Deputy will provide the person receiving the property with the completed property release form and direct him/her to 700 N. San Jacinto to pick up the property. Property must be claimed within 24 hours or the property release form is invalid.

A: In order to pick up any type of property, you must have a valid government photo ID and a completed Property Release Form.

A: Yes. The Commissary stocks and sells a variety of items and each cellblock has a designated schedule for Commissary delivery. Inmates with appropriate funds and without disciplinary sanctions are allowed to spend up to $150 a week on commissary.  Medical may prohibit certain purchases for health concerns.

The following rights and privileges are guaranteed to those accused of a crime by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:

  • The defendant is innocent until proven guilty. This concept is the foundation of the criminal justice system and influences every other legal principle.
  • The right to a trial by jury. The sixth amendment to the Constitution guarantees that “in all criminal proceedings, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.”
  • The defendant’s right to counsel. The right to an attorney is an inherent right of the defendant’s, and the State must provide counsel if the defendant cannot secure his own.
  • Burden of Proof: The State has the burden of proving the defendant is guilty and must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime charged. The defendant does not have to prove he/she is innocent.
  • Confrontation of Witnesses. The sixth amendment also guarantees that the accused has the right to confront the witnesses against him. The defendant also has the right to cross examine any witnesses who testify on behalf of the State. For this reason, the defendant will always be present in the courtroom, while all other witnesses are present only for their own testimony and closing arguments.
  • The defendant does not have to testify. The fact that a defendant chooses not to testify cannot be considered as a factor when guilt or innocence is determined. The full burden of proof lies with the State, and it must supply the evidence.

Pre-Trial Setting : A general term used to describe any court setting scheduled before a trial setting.

Non-Trial Setting : A term used to describe any setting that is not a trial setting.

Motion Setting : A court setting requested by either the attorney representing the defendant or the attorney representing the State and the victim, asking the court to rule on a legal issue. Examples of motions include a motion for continuance, to suppress evidence ( such as improperly seized property), or to set a trial date.

Examining Setting : A “mini-trial” where the court hears only enough evidence from both sides to establish whether or not there is probable cause to believe that a criminal act was committed by the defendant. There is not always an examining trial setting; sometimes the case moves directly to Grand Jury. If an examining trial is held, witnesses may be subpoenaed to appear.

Grand Jury : A selected group of twelve citizens, who meet for a three-month term. They are charged with the responsibility of deciding the issue of probable cause in a criminal case. An assistant district attorney presents the outline of the case, then leaves the room, giving the Grand Jury the complete case file. The Grand Jury then votes in secret to return a true bill(indictment) or a nobill(the case is found to be lacking sufficient evidence and is dismissed). The Grand Jury can reconsider a case which was no-billed only if sufficient new evidence has become available. Witnesses may or may not be subpoenaed to appear before the Grand Jury. If the defendant is subpoenaed to appear, he must meet with the Grand Jury alone; his attorney is not allowed to accompany him. Once the Grand Jury indicts the defendant, there is no need to hold an examining trial.

Arraignment : A court hearing where the indictment is presented to the defendant; the defendant is formally charged, told he should have an attorney, and that if he cannot afford one, one will be appointed for him. At this setting, a plea of “Not Guilty” is rountinely given, (or no plea at all), and the first of several pre-trial settings is scheduled. Since a trial is held to establish the guilt or innocence of the defendant, if the defendant enters a “guilty” plea, he has admitted his guilt. There is then no need for a trial or the testimony of witnessess. The defendant who admits his guilt moves on to the punishment stage, and testimony may be needed at that time.

Elements of a Trial :

The trial is the most effective method our society has devised to settle disputes among people. A trial is a method of gathering facts and drawing a conclusion for those facts while operating under a procedural code.

In a jury trial, the jury must believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime with which he is charged. The standard means that a member of the jury must have no reasonable doubts about the defendant’s guilt. If a juror does have a reasonable doubt, the juror must vote “not guilty”.

The progress of the trial is as follows:

  • The defendant is read the charges by the judge and pleads “ not guilty”.
  • The defense attorney and the prosecutor (an assistant district attorney) question prospective jurors and select those who will become jury members. This process is called Voir Dire or Jury Selection.
  • The prosecutor representing the State and the victim, makes an opening statement, outlining the case to be established.
  • The prosecution calls its witnesses, and through their testimony, offers evidence.
  • The defense may then cross examine the State’s witnesses, after the State has concluded the direct examination. After the defense concludes the cross exam, the State may then ask the witnesses additional questions on re-direct examination. Finally, the defense may further question the State’s witnesses on re-cross examination.
  • When the State has concluded its case, or rested , the defense, representing the defendant , makes its opening statement , and puts on its evidence and witnesses. The same procedure is followed in questioning the defense witnesses as described above concerning the state’s witnesses.
  • When the defense has concluded its case, or rested the prosecution and defense then offer their final arguments to the jury. The victim and other witnesses may come back into the courtroom to hear this summation.
  • If a jury trial, the jury then retires to deliberate the guilt of innocence of the defendant.
  • If the defendant is convicted by the jury, then both the defense and the prosecution present evidence in the punishment phase. The jury then will deliberate on the punishment for the defendant.
  • Texas has a bifurcated trial system. The trial is held in two stages: the guilt stage and the punishment stage.
  • The jury must be unanimous in its decision. If the jury cannot agree on a verdict a mistrial results in the form of a hung jury.
  • A case may also result in a mistrial if the judge so rules on a procedural error.
  • If the defendant is found not guilty , their will not be a re-trial. The rule of double jeopardy prohibits the accused from being tried twice for the same offense (with some exceptions).
  • The defendant may waive his right to a jury trial and have his case heard by the judge in a Court Trial.
  • If the defendant is found guilty by the judge, some judges will order the probation department to complete a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI) on the defendant before the judge will impose the sentence.
  • If the judge is doing the sentencing, the prosecutor will present a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) , completed by the victim for the judge’s consideration. The VIS allows the victim to describe the effects of the crime, physically, psychologically, and financially. It serves two purposes: 1) it can be reviewed by the judge as described above, and 2) it can serve as a request to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to notify the victim when the defendant is being considered for parole.

The following rights and privileges are guaranteed to those accused of a crime by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:

  • Always tell the truth. Do not guess or make up an answer. If you are asked about little details which you do not remember, it is best to say " I do not remember".
  • Answer all questions directly. Answer only the question that is asked. If you can answer with a "yes" or "no", do so. If you do not understand a question, Feel free to have the question repeated or explained.
  • Speak clearly and distinctly. The juror farthest from you should be able to hear you.
  • Be Attentive. Remain alert at all times so that you can hear, understand and give a proper response to each question. Avoid trying to "second guess" the questioner. The prosecutor will develop the evidence through your testimony and will object to any improper questioning by the defense during cross examination.
  • DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER. Losing your temper during cross examination means losing your credibility. Anger will lessen your recall ability and may cause you to make incorrect statements.
  • Dress Conservatively and be Courteous. The jury knows nothing of you except for the impression that you make with your testimony and with you appearance. Wear clothing that will not distract the judge or jury from your testimony.
  • Bring family and friends. You will only be present in the courtroom for your testimony and the closing arguments. This is to insure that the testimony of one witness will not influence that of another, and is called "invoking the rule". The support of friends and family is helpful at this time, although they cannot relate to you what happened in the courtroom until after the trial is over. A coordinator from the Victim Witness Program will also accompany you if called at 755-6655. Remember, the Victim Waiting Room offers a separate and secure area in which you may wait for your turn to testify.
  • Be aware that the defendant will be in the courtroom at all times and you will be asked to identify him. This is easier to deal with if you prepare beforehand.
  • Take a positive attitude with you. It is not a good idea to go into trial with revenge on your mind, as no amount of punishment for the defendant can atone for what you have gone through. By going through the ordeal of testifying you have shown a great deal of courage and concern for others by hopefully preventing this crime from happening to another person.

REMEMBER THE DEFENDANT IS ON TRIAL--YOU ARE NOT