Monday, January 16, 2012

Counties seeking jail population reductions

A pair of stories out of smaller jurisdictions provide examples of ways Texas counties are attempting to save money by reducing jail populations:
In Coryell County, commissioners are hoping local judges will begin using personal bonds more frequently for non-violent defendants, allowing them to be supervised pretrial by the probation department to clear up space in the jail. Meanwhile, in Angelina county a retired judge is assisting to process cases more rapidly, reducing the jail population by more than 50 people per month in a facility with a capacity of 279.


Anonymous said...

I suppose you consider home burglaries to be nonviolent offenses.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's how the FBI and DPS categorize them, fwiw.

Anonymous said...

Those who break into our homes should be allowed to stay in our communities and, I suppose, have better access to our homes. Makes sense.

Cody said...

This only makes sense. Most criminals accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies do not run if they are monitored closely enough. Some european countries use pretrial monitoring very effectively, have almost all of their defendants show up for court, and don't have the problems inherent with the bail bond system and large-scale pretrial detention.

Kevin Stouwie said...

Although it seems quite prudent that some counties are looking at ways to reduce inmate populations in the county jails, it is a shame that the motivation for doing so is cost savings, rather than the desire to keep non-violent offenders from losing their jobs, their families, their leases, their family's leases, their cars, etc.

So many of the less fortunate have to live in county jail for months for committing trivial offenses, and sometimes charges are dismissed or greatly reduced once someone bothers to look at the facts carefully.

Tedbyrd said...

To be a contrarian here, it seems reasonable to me ( I am not a 2nd Amendment maniac)to simply shoot home burglars, hopefully fatally, as a way to keep them out of a census- on the other hand, non-violent theft and drug crimes are, imho, good candidtes to stay on the street, and on the off chance they have jobs, to keep working and paying taxes

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:05, nobody said any such thing. You're arguing with some voice in your head (there's medication for that), not anyone here. Burglars are prosecuted and punished in these counties just like any other. But counties also must make choices because none of us are willing to pay enough taxes to incarcerate every offender forever.

That said, I seriously doubt burglary is the type of crime Coryell will be giving personal bonds; there are a wide range of nonviolent offenses, many of which, as Tedbyrd says, pose little risk under community supervision.

Not that you care about facts, but the MUCH bigger issue about burglary is that police barely investigate it and clearance rates are abysmal. We'd get a lot more crime fighting bang for the buck if more resources were spent catching burglars instead of maximally punishing the handful who are caught, but again, don't let reality interfere with your opinions.

Blue_in_Guadalupe said...

If we really want to relieve jail and prison over-crowding how about legalizing marijuana. Possession is an offense that harms no one and yet we spend billions housing those charged. Gallup finds that nationally, a new high of 46% of Americans are in favor of legalizing use of the drug, and a new low of 50% are opposed. The increase in support this year from 44% in 2009 is not statistically significant, but is a continuation of the upward trend seen since 2000.

Anonymous said...

My 18 yr old son helped himself to a beer from a neighbor's fridge on an open-sided carport, was charge with felony Burglary of a Habitation, bond set at $25,000.

The next day, the neighbor realized how severe the charge was and went to the DA's office/PD and signed an affidavit that he no longer wanted to press those charges.

My son was eligible for a Court-appointed attorney and filled out the paperwork when the bond was set by the magistrate. A week passed with no attorney appointed, so I started making calls in his behalf.

The jail and the Court played volleyball for days - jail said they sent the paperwork to the Court and the Court said they never got it.

Finally, I looked at the Texas Fair Defense Project website and learned an attorney should have been appointed within about 5-6 days, according to a Supreme Court case.

When I started talking to these folks about civil rights, things started happening, but it still ended up about 26 days from arrest before an appointed attorney started calling to find out the status of the case.

When the attorney called, he was told the charge has been refused by the DA's office 9 days prior to his call. Then it was another 15 days (and another couple of phone calls from the attorney) before the DA's office could get the paperwork over to the jail so the bond could be lifted for his release.

This happened in no other than the very lovely McLennan County, home of a brand new jail due to a history of inmate overcrowding.

Only a couple of months prior, another individual was charged with Arson after his barbeque pit accidentally caught his apartment complex on fire. Lucky for him, he was able to post the $10,000 bond that was set. I suppose this charge was later refused.

The DA's office tells law enforcement to charge the biggest offense possible, for their own purposes. I have been a victim and been told this by a police officer. Oh yes, even inflate the value of the damages, please, so we can get a bigger charge.

My son early on kept telling me he would be there for 90 days, even if the charges were dropped earlier because that is what happens to everyone. I laughed and told him that was ridiculous and also very illegal.

Finding ways to reduce the jail population may not necessarily mean that violent felons will be released.

Kevin gets it.

Anonymous said...

Some posts displays a self righteous attitude. Personality coming through?

The Homeless Cowboy said...

I doubt that anyone is getting a PR bond for burglary, even in the small counties that cant afford to be in the incarceration is good business racket. In 1971 in Texas Burglary of a private residence at night time could carry the death penalty. Grits pretty much summed it up for you, there are some lesser crimes that can be handled that way and yes there are always situations that fall through the cracks and there is always somewhere where incompetence raises its ugly head. But alas we must per severe.

Anonymous said...

9:08 am:

More appropriately, a civil righteous attitude.

Solve the mystery here - are you a prosecutor, a jailer or law enforcement?

A Texas PO said...

It'll be interesting to see how CSCDs fair this fiscal year with this trend towards pre-trial release supervision, especially since CJAD is no longer funding this supervision and CSCDs can't co-mingle probation and pre-trial funds (i.e. an officer supervising pre-trial defendants can't be paid with funds from CJAD, even if that officer is supervising probationers). From what I've seen, most counties trying to save money at the jail are also trying to save money by not creating pre-trial services offices and paying officers to supervise those defendants. And more concerning are the majistrates (often JPs) who set ridiculously high bonds for misdemeanor, non-violent offenses.

Phillip Baker said...

Some eons ago, I worked for Travis County Sheriffs Office in the jail. Then, as I believe is still the case, about half the people arrested and brought into the jail had their charges dropped as soon as a magistrate saw the case. If you are arrested here in Austin, progressive as it is, you WILL spend the night in the jail and stay about 24 hours or so. Releases are the last task, done when you get a chance. Even with charges dismissed, many of those people will have lost their hourly wage jobs and even salaried ones, suffered the humiliation that goes with booking process, face shame and angry family back home, and likely have to spend hundreds to retrieve a car from our absurdly costly impound lots.

All this costs a lot of money on both sides. It is that "Arrest 'em all and let the courts sort it out" attitude endemic to APD and TSCO that needs to change. We pay these guys the highest salaries n the state. They should be required to use some judgment.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully some mandatory legislation will be put into effect requiring those released from jail to be quickly brought before the court to determine guilt or innocence.

I have some concerns:
1. with pre-trial bond release is that the cost for keeping an offender in jail while waiting court procedings,is sort of a built-in pain-in-the-ass reminder that someone is pending court. Placing offenders on pre-trial bond for years is a convenient way for a prosecutor to procrastinate and later use unethical means to an end getting convictions.
2. If someone has been on bond supervision for years or months & paid the high administrative and supervision costs, shouldn't they get credit towards their sentence? And isn't this sort of a premature disposition from the prosecutor's office? What happens when an offender is on $$ bond supervision and is found innocent? I believe the statute states that an offender released out of jail to bond supervision on GPS is supposed to be credited time the same as if they were in jail. This doesn't happen. Someone is on pre-trial bond supervision for 5 years and then gets a 10 year probation sentence doesn't seem to jive with the law here.

3. If an offender is eligible to be released from jail under bond supervision for months/years to await trial, shouldn't that also be the criterion for probation eligibility. I mean really, everyone seems to be eleigible for bond supervision in the name of saving $$.
But 1/3 or more of those same folks must go to to trial where the prosecutor wants to send them to prison because they are a danger to society?

Sound like we have created way to many crimes punisheable with incarceration but would be better if they were punisheable by fine only.
Saves the jail money, saves the Courts money, Saves the Taxpayer money.

rodsmith said...


"Even with charges dismissed, many of those people will have lost their hourly wage jobs and even salaried ones, suffered the humiliation that goes with booking process, face shame and angry family back home, and likely have to spend hundreds to retrieve a car from our absurdly costly impound lots.

All this costs a lot of money on both sides. It is that "Arrest 'em all and let the courts sort it out" attitude endemic to APD and TSCO that needs to change. We pay these guys the highest salaries n the state. They should be required to use some judgment."

Of course rather than years of expensive and ultimately USELESS lawsuits.

IF the 10's of THOUSANDS of individuals subjected to this IMMORAL and ultimately undefensabile and illegal contract just swarmed the jails and pd's involved and adminstered a little CITIZENS JUSTICE! their replacments might not be so GRABBY with CITIZENS on the streen UNLESS they had REAL EVIDENCE a REAL CRIME had occured!

Anonymous said...

Is it true (from a prior comment) that a magistrate does any form of a case review of the charges and has the power to release someone? It was my understanding that the magistrate just sees the charge and prior history and sets the bond amount...

Anonymous said...

Yes it is true. Seems to be a bit of a conflict considering the county will receive revenue from bond supervision compared to the county paying for inmate costs to sit in jail.

The real irony is to discover as a crime victim that your sexual assaulter after being misplaced on probation, was revoked for a new offense with the reccomendation to be removed from the community, THEN be released within 24 hours on bond supervision?

If judges and prosecutors find enough concern to issue a warrant and place an offender in jail how can magistrates turn around and put them back into the community on less restrictive supervision due to financial pressure from county officials?

If a revoked probationer is picked up on a warrant and then placed back into the community on a less restrictive bond supervision, isn't that challenging the decision of a higher court to warrant their arrest?
Oh, I almost forgot... everytime the offender goes through court more court costs are levied.