by Anita Miller
Hays County Commissioners last week voted to add a third officer to oversee pre-trial inmates released from custody and equipped with ankle monitors.
The need is clear, according to Lisa Pacheco of Hays County’s Adult Probation Office. The number of defendants in the county’s pre-trial bond program has soared, from 59 when the program was created in 2016 to 334 in September. That is an increase of 440 percent.
She said the need for an additional officer came up from the county’s subcommittee on criminal justice.
“We have many new positions where everyone is working hard to reduce inmate population” in the county jail. The county is trying to reduce inmate population to save millions of dollars being paid to outsource inmates elsewhere. The new county positions, Pacheco said, included adding an additional bond officer last year and attorneys to represent indigent inmates. “Everyone is coming together to meet the same goal,” she told the court.
County Judge Ruben Becerra noted that in March of this year, a summit brought together stakeholders with “everyone who touches” the criminal justice system. “Everyone showed a deep willingness to step up in a way you just described,” he told Pacheco. “These are the fruits of the labor of those passionate people.”
“There is no one cog that will make that wheel turn,” he said. “No office is an island. This is a myriad of elected officials working for the greater good.”
Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones added that non-elected officials have been working on the issue as well.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe said she was “shocked at how quickly” the number of defendants in the program rose. “I think an additional officer will help us identify those inmates who are eligible” for the program. “I appreciate the court’s work during the budget process.”
Becerra asked how the county might develop a “more robust process” where “no one falls through the cracks and allow the process to keep things moving along“ in a way that is most universally beneficial.
Pacheco said that as the system works now, defendants have to pay for a portion of the ankle monitor service.
She said that supervision is particularly important when there are victims involved and that supervision needs to be available around the clock “and right now that’s not available.”
Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell said the current workload is a lot for three officers to manage.