Each month, an average of 2,286 state parole violators are housed in Texas jails, a policy costing taxpayers at least $42 million a year. Harris County has the largest tab — estimated at $7.6 million. This year, Harris County has had from 900 to 1,250 parole violators in jail each month.The story quotes ""Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley [describing] legislation to allow parole violators to bond as 'a weak-on-crime, bad bill.'" But the Sheriffs Association isn't generally subject to "weak on crime" criticisms and I'm not sure that particular bit of mudslinging will stick. Bradley says a better solution would be to speed up hearings for violators, but in the current budget environment that's probably not a realistic demand.
As local and state budgets get increasingly tightened, Sheriff Adrian Garcia and other members of the Sheriffs' Association of Texas are asking the Legislature for help with jail costs.
"I stand with sheriffs across Texas who have agreed on allowing state parole violators who are in our custody for technical reasons, and technical reasons only, to post bond," Garcia said in a statement released by his office. "Allowing them to make bond for technical issues makes sense because we need jail space for those violators who are committing new crimes and have yet to go through the criminal justice system."
Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk, who chairs the association's legislative committee, said changing the law to allow bond for parole violators is the group's second-highest priority for next year's legislative session, trailing only border security issues.
"The folks that are under parole violation (warrants) eat up a lot of our beds in our jails across the state, and bed space is a very precious resource for the counties,“ Kirk said. "So to lose 10 to 20 percent of your beds to parole violations is a terrible impact on that resource."
Gov. Perry in the past has signed legislation he previously vetoed on behalf of prosecutors - most prominently the landmark 2007 probation reforms, which Perry earlier vetoed in part at Bradley's request in 2005. Perry approved probation reform for the same reason this legislation has a chance next year: The economic reality of full prisons ran up against "tuff on crime" ideology, just as the reality of full county jails arguably trumps the criticism that letting technical parole violators out on bail is "weak on crime." Now that counties have racked up tens of millions annually in incarceration costs in the years since Perry vetoed the legislation the last time, perhaps popular sentiment against excessive government spending will alter the terms of debate to allow this idea to be implemented.