Efforts are underway at both the local and state levels to abolish, or at least drastically limit, the concept of requiring cash bail as a condition of release for misdemeanor criminal defendants, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff will be meeting with County Court at Law Judges in a push to end the cash bail system.
Wolff told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board it is unfair that wealthy defendants can be released pending trial, while poor people accused of the same crime remain locked up.
"We shouldn't be making money off of people when there is no need to be doing that," Wolff said. "All you are doing is putting a greater burden on people who have a limited income."
It is estimated that as many as two thirds of the inmates in Texas urban county jails have been convicted of nothing. They are held because they cannot afford bail, and they are held while other people who have been accused of exactly the same crime are walking free. In addition to being unfair, advocates for bail reform argue that taxpayers pay the costs, at between $300 and $600 a day, to incarcerate people who can't post bond for non violent offenses.
The bill filed in the Texas Legislature would require a 'risk assessment' on inmates, and those who are not considered a 'danger to society' would be released, often on some type of electronic GPS monitoring.
“The decision should be based on, is he a threat? Will he flee? And if not, he should be released,” Wolff said.
Currently, bail decisions are generally based on the type of crime the individual is facing, with standard bail amounts set for different levels of crime.
But opposition is growing to attempts to reduce cash bail. The Texas Alliance for Safe Communities cites several incidents in the past year where innocent people have been killed by individuals who had been jailed, but were released ‘on their own recognizance.’
“Texas has already seen the deadly consequences of unaccountable bail policies. In Dallas County, Officer Rogelio Santander was killed after seasoned criminal Armando Juarez was released from jail unsupervised despite having a history of nine arrests and eight failures to appear in court,” TGhe TASE said in a s statement. “Days later, he killed Officer Santander and injured two others at a Home Depot. Ebony Sheppard was tragically murdered in Travis County by a criminal who was released on his own recognizance for a crime committed weeks before. And just last month, criminal defendant Jakouri Jones allegedly committed an armed crime spree in Pasadena, including shooting at a witness and his son, after twice being released on personal recognizance by a Harris County judge.”
The TASC said if a person has been charged with a crime, that person ‘requires supervision,’ and the state and local proposals would essentially lift that level fo supervision.
The proposals are also expected to face serious push back from the politically powerful bail bond company lobby.