Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hidalgo public defender processing cases twice as quckly

Counties struggling with jail overcrowding should take note. The new misdemeanor public defender in Hidalgo County already has reduced local jail overcrowding by helping misdemeanor defendants get bail reduction hearings and apply for personal bond, reports the McAllen Monitor. "We are representing our clients faster, adequately and efficiently in basically half the time a regular court appointed attorney did” said the new public defender Jaime Gonzalez.

Explicating the report
Grits linked to here, the Monitor reports ("Fewer jail days given for misdemeanor charges, says study," July 9):
The report says the average days from arrest to dismissal of a misdemeanor case was 32.6 days for the two-year period ending in January. Gonzalez says that since January his office has been able to on average process cases in 16.6 days. ...

If his office continues to reduce the time a defendant spends in jail, [Gonzalez] hopes he can convince the county to let him take on bond-reduction hearings for felony cases. Those hearings, according to the report, do not happen enough in the county and often bond is set way too high. The higher the bond the less likely that an indigent client can pay his way out of jail, leading to overcrowded jails.
At $40 per day, reducing by half the average time misdemeanor defendants sit in jail awaiting trial saves a big chunk of change, especially at a big jail like in Hidalgo County. Creating a public defender office is one of several promising initatives being tried by Texas counties to reduce jail overcrowding without building more jail cells. These results argue it's one that should be replicated.

See these related Grits posts:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's great to read that Hidalgo County is doing the logical and the financially sound thing for misdemeanors. After reading the links to the related posts, I just cannot comprehend the schizoid disconnect between the factual information presented in and the conclusions reached by the study commissioned in Tarrant County. I suppose the authors didn't believe the County was ready to actually take care of their sky-rocketing appointed counsel costs.