Eight inmates in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center who were unable to afford bond or bail are being released with the help of the Texas Organizing Project.
The grassroots group paid $25,000 total for bond. The charges range from prostitution to the possession of controlled substances. The time spent in jail for some ranged from a few months to two years for one man.
Surrounded by supporters, Jeremy Fearce and seven others were released from the Bexar County Jail.
“I would be sitting here for a whole other month if it wasn’t for TOP organization coming and posting my bond today,” he said.
Fearce is homeless and was arrested for marijuana possession; a class B misdemeanor. His bond was set at $800 and he was unable to pay a reduced bond of $80.
“I’m poor and I don’t have any family here in San Antonio to represent me to get me out of jail,” he said.
He was jailed for 96 days while awaiting an upcoming court date.
It’s a situation many low income offenders face, according to Laquita Garcia, an organizer with TOP. She says there’s a disparity when people are accused of the same crime: Those who can afford bond are released and those who are too poor for bail stay in jail.
“And that needs to change,” she said. “That’s what the drive behind this came from — a real need for bail reform. Our ultimate goal is to do away with money bail altogether and bail for profit systems.”
Garcia says similar events are happening in other cities across the country.
“This is a national fundraising effort. Private donors and others that support bail reform across the entire nation are … raising funds in order to continue these efforts in many different states,” she said.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar attended the release. He agrees with the group that it’s time for reform.
“It is costing taxpayer dollars to house these folks,” Salazar said. “... I think if we can keep someone out of jail that truly doesn’t belong here — they’re non-violent, they’re not hurting anybody — ... and keep them employed and keep them contributing to society, I’m a bigger fan of doing that.”
The released inmates were selected by Bexar County Pretrial Services.
Joe Gonzales, a criminal defense attorney who won the Democratic nomination for Bexar County District Attorney this past week, spoke from the steps of the jail along with TOP officials, saying he also supports reform.
“I’ve had occasions as a defense lawyer where people languish in jail and just take deals because they want to go home, that’s just not a fair way to run the justice system,” he said.
Last month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found cash bail systems in Harris County unconstitutional.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.