HOUSTON — Internal documents show many Harris County felony judges directed magistrates to deny no-cash bail to new defendants for more than a decade.

The Houston Chronicle obtained the internal documents that contradict statements from county officials denying that the magistrates had been ordered to forgo personal bonds.

A federal judge ruled in a lawsuit by criminal justice reform advocates last year that the bail system in Texas’ most populous county was unconstitutional for people arrested for lesser offenses.

The documents obtained by The Chronicle show 31 judges created explicit court-by-court instructions for magistrates to reject the no-cash bond requests. Documents and testimony also show that misdemeanor judges routinely told the magistrates to decline personal bonds, which allow defendants to be released without posting cash bail.

Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com