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Study: Texas Can Benefit From Broad Pretrial, Bail Reforms For Low-Risk Defendants

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Texas Public Radio Archive

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.

Guests:

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.