County Leaders Trying for Bail Reform
Some of our county leaders have taken the positive step of asking county court judges to go along with bail reform recommendations. Judge Nelson Wolff, District Attorney Joe Gonzales and Chief Public Defender Michael Young, signed off on a letter generated by Administrative District Court Judge Ron Rangel that asks the county judges to move to the same type of bail reform that Harris County is using. This is real reform but make no mistake, Harris County didn’t reform their system out of the goodness of their heart. A federal court found them guilty of ‘tens of thousands of constitutional violations.’ For all those who are ready to lose their minds over this change in Bexar County, think lawsuits, people. Our tax money paid out in court awards rather than being used to fix our roads, pay for our policing, and so on.
Bonds for Everyone Don’t Make Us Safer
The system being proposed will let certain people with non-violent misdemeanors get out of jail without having to pay a penny. Individuals meeting the criteria would automatically be given a personal recognizance (PR) bond after processing, then they will be released. As we have said many times, this website is to help the friends and family of people incarcerated but the very best way to help them is not to incarcerate people who don’t need to be incarcerated. Bail only hurts poor people and we very much appreciate the comment by our Chief Public Defender, Michael Young, “I think there’s a misconception among the public that if somebody can pay $200 to get out of jail, the public is somehow safer than somebody who got out on a personal bond and that’s just not the case.”
Why a PR Bond is Safer for the Public
I’ll be up front in saying that I feel this is a burdensome process but it’s still a step forward from where we are at today. That being said, people don’t understand how the system works. If you pay your bond, you walk free until you have to go to court. Read how Chief Public Defender Young explains the safety aspect, “If you can pay $200 and get out of jail, you don’t have to be drug tested, you don’t have to report to pretrial once a week, you don’t have to be checked on consistently. If you’re out on a personal bond, you have to do all those things.”
Again, this sets up plenty of places a person can mess up but at least the family is not suffering by having to pay out money they can’t afford. It’s still a positive move and we hope the judges all sign on.
Change is Very Difficult for Some People
Whenever something new is tried there will always be those who are afraid of change. This situation is no different. Administrative County Court Judge John Longoria, who is one of the judges who has to approve the process, says that he feels this may be an overreach. According to Judge Longoria, “I would suggest to them that they be careful. And I would suggest that, that’s a violation of their duty and the law.”
His comment makes absolutely no sense since this is already being done in Harris County. In addition, Chief Public Defender Young said the following, “I’ve heard some people say, ‘Well, we’re not sure if it’s legal or constitutional.’ And I would remind those people that the federal district court has looked at it and said, ‘This is legal. This is constitutional.’ The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has looked at it and said, ‘This is legal. This is constitutional.’”
I sincerely hope that Judge Longoria acknowledges the rulings made by higher courts and approves this process but his negativity, shortsightedness, and his ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality, is concerning. Regardless of what happens, I want to thank Judge Nelson Wolff, the Office of the District Attorney, and the Public Defender’s Office for working in the best interest of Bexar County.
You can read the KENS 5 article and watch the video here.