The Bexar County Jail is changing its 'intake' process, where it handles people who are arrested, into a more efficient and less punative process, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"They may be arrested, but they are not convicted," County Judge Nelson Wolff said. "They are citizens of this community, and we want to make sure we treat them the right way when we bring them in here."
The Intake and Assessment Center is located not in the main jail but in an annex behind the jail.
The idea is to better assess all individuals brought into the jail for their threat level, and enable judges to better determine if people have mental illnesses so they can be diverted into a special unit. The special attention for the mentally ill is required under the Sandra Bland Act, approved by the 2017 session of the Legislature, and named for the Chicago area woman who killed her self in a Houston area jail.
"What we developed here is a system where we don't just throw somebody into a holding cell for no reason other than the fact that they were arrested," Wolff said.
Under the 'Open Booking' concept, rather than warehousing arrested people in holding cells, they will be placed into a 'waiting room,' where they can see a judge, an attorney, have visitors, see a bail bond company, and receive other services.
150 seats will be in the open area, and there will still be holding cells for fifty inmates who are causing trouble or particularly dangerous.
There will be full security in the Open Booking area. If a person is ordered held in jail, there is a secure connection to the main County Jail.