pursuing pending charges against a man unlikely to see the outside of a prison again and transporting him back into county custody to be paid for by residents could be seen as inefficient, given the county’s budget overruns, a bloated jail population, spiraling criminal justice expenses and a shrinking reserve fund, all of which contributed to a 5-cent county tax increase for the 2013-14 fiscal year.It could be seen that way, couldn't it? County costs are rising and the jaiil's backed up, reported the Trib's Tommy Witherspoon, mainly because DA Abel Reyna's office is taking more cases to trial:
[Local attorney] Stan Schwieger said the DA’s office’s practice of “trying to force a plea” on pending cases after a defendant is sentenced to a substantial prison term or “threatening to retry them has become almost commonplace.”By contrast, the McLennan DA's Office took 46 cases to trial in 2010 and 70 in 2012, the Trib reported las month. Jumping from that to hundreds would indeed boost your costs!
“This is not at all atypical under the current regime,” Schwieger said. “But these are the district attorney’s charging decisions. I have no input on that. All I can do is defend my clients. If they continue with these cases, then we are going to continue to defend them.”
With 2,063 pending felony cases and the county jail housing more than 1,200 inmates, the county’s chief felony court judges, Strother and 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson, have hundreds of trials ahead of them in the next year.
As of this week, there were 475 jail inmates with felony trial dates set through the end of next year in 19th Court and 151 jail inmates with trials set in 54th Court.
County records show that dozens of county jail inmates have been locked up for more than a year at a cost of $51 a day per inmate.
Reyna's office just took on the chin its second budget cut in two years, which won't help process cases any faster. The tax hikes are instead going to pay for McLennan County's jail, which commissioners foolishly expanded hoping to house contract prisoners, then couldn't find inmates to fill the beds. The weird, intractable finances underlying the jail contract coupled with Reyna's expanded use of pretrial detention creates a near perfect storm that the commissioners court could only manage through a tax increase. One imagines we will see this dynamic repeated again next year in the lead up to the 2014-15 budget, but with even more urgency by all parties concerned.