Thursday, May 31, 2007

HB 2391 could save Bexar County taxpayers $10K per day

Every politician says they want to cut spending, but how many fail to do so when they get a reasonable opportunity? Bexar County officials say HB 2391 would save the local jail $10,000 per day and generate proportional savings for other counties, if the Governor will only sign the bill.

An aide to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff forwards this letter sent to Governor Rick Perry (pdf) asking him to support HB 2391 by Madden/Seliger (discussed on Grits here and here). Judge Wolff, who's pretty much a San Antonio political icon, describes the impact HB 2391 could have in his county if the Governor allows it to become law:
in the seven day period between May 19th and May 25th law enforcement agencies here in Bexar County arrested 958 people on misdemeanor offenses. If the bill had been in effect and the local law enforcement organizations utilized it to issue summons on only those charged with misdemeanor traffic ticket and driving with license suspended offenses, Bexar County jail's population would have been reduced by 194 inmates and saved the County nearly $10,000 per day in operational expenses.

Just as the State continues to struggle to meet increased demand for prison beds, Texas counties continue to struggle to meet demand for jail beds. HB 2391 provides a needed tool to address this issue and I respectfully request for you to allow this important piece of legislation to become law.
Wolff's aide assured me the estimates of costs savings for Bexar County are "very conservative," but admitted that "The open question will be if we can convince SAPD to change their arrest policies," he said. Since the option, though, is a jail needlessly filled with low-level non-violent and traffic offenders, I certainly join Judge Wolff in hoping Governor Perry gives law enforcement this option.

11 comments:

Joan Pedrotti, Bexar County Court Administrator said...

As of May 29, 2007 the population breakdown for the Bexar County Adult Detention Center reported 704 pre-trial misdemeanants in custody. The report does not break down the Class A & Class B misdemeanors, but you can bet the class b's are a fair portion of that number. HB 2391, if properly utilitzed by the San Antonio PD, would be of great assistance to the jail over-population problems we are experiencing here in Bexar County. I only hope the PD & the County can come together to make this Bill work if and when the Governor signs it.

JT Barrie said...

If you stop jailing people for using street drugs and breaking traffic laws we will be "sending a message" that doing so is OK. After all isn't that what prisons are for: a vehicle for politicians to send messages to the public? Maybe we should rename the Bexar county prison: State Legislature Message Center- Bexar county division.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Of course, Joan, just to have said it (and I know I'm preaching to the choir) most of those folks should also be eligible for personal bonds if your local judges would cooperate. Much larger Harris County has less than HALF that number of misdemeanor pretrial defendants in the jail, mainly for that reason.

J Pedrotti said...

Let me make a clarification. I said "pre-trial misdemeanants". These are folks who have not yet been convicted of a crime. I don't want anyone to misunderstand, I have no problem with people being punished appropriately for the crimes they are convicted of. In the case of a misdemeanor that is usually probation. The people of which I speak are those unable to make a bond. They are generally the homeless, the mentally ill and the poor. Punishing people who have not yet been found guilty is not how the system should work. As for PR bonds, we look at our jail list daily and try to get those eligile released. But, as you are aware, it is always an up hill battle.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

We're on the same page, Joan, talking about PRE-trial defendants. And like I said, I know I'm preaching to the choir. I was really just saying there's more than one way to skin a cat. Y'all have just a handful of judges IMO causing a lot of this problem by not giving especially those B misdemeanor folks personal bonds more often. best,

Anonymous said...

How about if we try warrant less MTR's if we are not asking for revocation?

On the pretrail mis. - maybe if they are on a new charge and already on probation- would it be possible to call the probation officer and bond the defendants on a PR bond if the officer approves. Some of my defendants should bond but are dirt poor or it takes the family so many days to bond. Some are harmless and just need to be supervised closer until we can get a stable behavior pattern.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What are "warrant less MTR's" ?

Did you mean warrantless, and what's the acronym?

J Pedortti said...

I think they are talking about issuing a Motion to Revoke (MTR)without issuing a warrant on that Motion. Kind of like HB 2391 would allow a summons on class B misdemeanors. The MTR is filed but there is no warrant activated. I don't see a problem with this, but the Judge's in County Court usually follow the recommendation of probation & the District Attorney in these situations. They feel, justifiably so, the probation officer knows best when it comes to the defendants he/she supervises. Maybe we can have the line officers make this suggestion to the Judges and try it out. I realize there is some stress between the two factions, but I believe most of the officers have good relationships with the Judges they work with, and I know the Judges would be open to any reasonable suggestions they have concerning this issue.

Anonymous said...

Joan-exactly what I meant!
You are right on with all comments! Run that idea past a couple of judges ,if you can. We cannot go through our chain of command because of Do Nothing Bill. We have other ideas also that maybe would help.

I think most officers would be scared to talk to the judges about new ideas. Bill would give us some type of backlash by not going through the chain of command.

Anonymous said...

Joan-exactly what I meant!
You are right on with all comments! Run that idea past a couple of judges ,if you can. We cannot go through our chain of command because of Do Nothing Bill. We have other ideas also that maybe would help.

I think most officers would be scared to talk to the judges about new ideas. Bill would give us some type of backlash by not going through the chain of command.

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