Approximately one quarter of the state's 41,000 prisoners pose little threat to the public, according to a recent study. Reforming bail bond practices could also save Texas more than $190,000 a year spent to house low-risk defendants.
The two-year effort by the Texas Judicial Council and the Public Policy Research Institute, "Liberty and Justice: Pretrial Practices in Texas," determined that pretrial risk assessment can save money, strengthen public safety and improve outcomes for defendants.
Using a system of research-based risk assessment, judges would be able to determine whether a personal bond could be issued in exchange for the defendant, agreeing to make all court appearances. This prevents pretrial detainees who can't afford to pay large bail amounts from sitting in jail until their trial date, increasing their potential to face job, health and other related hardships while locked up.
The number of inmates in jail awaiting trial has increased 43 percent over the last 20 years, says the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
Proponents include the state's chief judges and policymakers who, in an "unusual bipartisan coalition," introduced partner bills for the current legislative session that would reform pretrial and bail bond measures statewide.
Reform proposals will face staunch opposition from the bond industry, which argues that bondsman are necessary to ensure that defendants make it to their court dates and to track them down, if necessary.
- Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, Texas Supreme Court; chair of the Texas Judicial Council
- David Slayton, executive director of the Texas Judicial Council's Office of Court Administration
- Ken Good, attorney on the 2017 Professional Bondsmen of Texas Board of Directors
- Donna Kay McKinney, Bexar County District Clerk and presiding officer of the Bexar County Bail Bond Board