Tom Green County Taxpayers Pay a Hefty Bill for Trial Delays

 

The Criminal Justice System and the involvement of it isn’t always fully understood. This system affects everyone to some degree whether directly or indirectly, especially when court cases continually get delayed. Thus, San Angelo LIVE! looked into the breakdown of costs and what these delays mean for Tom Green County taxpaying citizens. However, note that all statistics are based on an average and may vary.

Of all the people who are incarcerated in Texas county jails, more than half have not been convicted of the crime for which they are accused. They are in pretrial detention, or waiting for trial. In fact, many of the men and women in Tom Green County Jail (TGCJ) cannot afford the bonds set that would allow them to return to the community before trial; while others are not given the option by judges, which leads to housing more people in the county jail.

According to 2013 statistics, there are about 381 people in TGCJ on average with the pre-trial population sitting at about 70 percent of that, which comes to approximately 266 people.

To break down the pre-trial population further, here are the charges:

  • Misdemeanor Charges – 48
  • State Jail Charges – 65
  • Felony Charges – 153

The Statewide average cost to county taxpayers to incarcerate one individual in the county jail is about $59 per day. The average cost to Tom Green County taxpayers to incarcerate the entire Tom Green County Jail pre-trial population is about $15,694 per day.

Here is that cost breakdown:

  • Average cost to incarcerate pre-trial defendants with Misdemeanor Charges - $2,832 per day
  • Average cost to incarcerate pre-trial defendants with State Jail Charges - $3,835 per day
  • Average cost to incarcerate pre-trial defendants with Felony Charges - $9,027 per day
  • Total: $15,694 oer day

When individuals are charged, their paperwork goes directly to the District Attorney at the District Courts to be filed. Reportedly, only about one percent of both felony and misdemeanor cases are rejected. Misdemeanor information is usually filed by the District Attorney within two weeks after an arrest. A felony indictment is usually filed by the District Attorney within 30 to 90 days after an arrest, with more complicated cases taking as long as 6 or 7 months to file. In drug cases, lab test results will contribute to the delay. 

Any indigent individual in Texas charged with a Class B misdemeanor or higher is also entitled to court-appointed representation. The county only pays for 83 percent of the indigent defense costs and the state pays the remaining 17 percent. This can be an issue for counties with strained budgets because it causes them to struggle to provide legal representation for all defendants who request an attorney.

Below are the number of individuals (both adult and juvenile) in Tom Green County who are receiving constitutionally guaranteed representation (court-appointed counsel):

  • Number of Adults with Misdemeanor Charges – 659
  • Number of Adults with Felony Charges – 1,226
  • Number of Juveniles with Cases – 204
  • Number of Individuals with Appeals Cases – 6
  • Number of Individuals with Capital Cases – 0

The total indigent defense expenditures paid for by the Tom Green County in fiscal year 2012 was $1,040,404.76. In 2016, Tom Green County budgeted $1,527,000 for indigent defense (see page 52, TGC FY 2016 Budget)

The judges also have the option of sentencing certain individuals to probation instead of prison or jail, especially since it is over 30 times cheaper than prison or jail.

There are approximately an average of 1,918 individuals in Tom Green County on Community Supervision, with 540 of those on Misdemeanor Probation and 1,378 on Felony Probation. The statewide average cost to the State to have one individual on probation is $1.38 per day. The average cost to the state of Texas for the entire Tom Green County Probation population is $2,646.84 per day.

Overall, there are various types of correctional facilities that house individuals with misdemeanor or felony convictions throughout the state of Texas. There are 246 county jails, 20 Texas State jails, 57 prisons and 5 Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facilities (SAFPF). In Tom Green County, we have the Tom Green County Jail that houses individuals with both misdemeanor and felony offenses. It also temporarily houses parole violators and individuals awaiting transfer to another type of correctional facility.

The average cost to Tom Green County taxpayers to incarcerate the entire population of individuals sentenced to TGCJ for misdemeanor offenses is $1,534 per day.

Currently, there are 1,017 individuals from Tom Green County sentenced to state-level confinement for felony offenses. To further break this down:

  • Number of such individuals sentenced to State Jail – 82, which is 8 percent of the total above
    • Average cost to the state to incarcerate one individual in state jail - $42.90 per day
    • Average cost to the state to incarcerate the entire population of individuals from Tom Green County sentenced to a state jail - $3,517.80 per day
  • Number of such individuals sentenced to prison – 90, which is 89 percent of the total
    • Average cost to the state to incarcerate one individual in prison - $50.04 per day
    • Average cost to the state to incarcerate the entire population of individuals from Tom Green County sentenced to prison - $45,086.04 per day
  • Number of such individuals placed in a SAFPF – 34, which is 3 percent of the total
    • Average cost to the state to place one individual in SAFPF - $63.19 per day
    • Average cost to the state to house and treat the entire population of individuals from Tom Green County placed in a SAFPF - $2,148.46 per day

The vast majority of the people who are incarcerated in the state-level correction facilities are ultimately released back into the community. Most of these individuals who leave a state jail are released unsupervised, whereas those people who leave prison are either released to supervised on parole, supervised on community supervision or released on “Flat discharge” (unsupervised).

There are about 570 individuals who are released from state-level confinement to Tom Green County. To further break this down:

  • 11 percent (63) of these individuals are released to Community Supervision
    • Statewide average cost to the state to have one individual on probation - $1.38 per day
    • Average cost to the state for the entire Tom Green County Post-release Probation population - $86.94 per day
  • 57 percent (326) of these individuals are released to Parole Supervision
    • Statewide average cost to the state to have one individual on parole - $3.63 per day
    • Average cost to the state for the entire Tom Green County Parole population - $1,183.38 per day
  • 32 percent (181) of these individuals are released on a Flat Discharge

All in all, an estimated 50 individuals in Tom Green County return to prison after they are released. 

These statistics can be found on the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition website at www.TexasCJC.org. They are based on the Tom Green County population of 111,823, which was reported in 2013. 

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I'd wondered about the burden the citizens of Tom Green County bore in relation to criminal costs. Thanks for breaking it down. As much as I want repeat offenders to 'pay' for their crimes, it is apparent society actually shoulders the responsibility they so sadly lack. Everyone makes mistakes, but damn, it's really not that hard to make a few wise choices and stay out of jail. I'm not being naive, I realize if your comfort zone is within the criminal element, you tend to gravitate toward that lifestyle. I used to shake my head at the kids going to the mall in Salt Lake City (Utah) getting another dead friend's name put on the backs of their t-shirts to show 'respect'. And I was thinking, way back then, if you have 13 names on your back, maybe, just maybe, that 'life' ain't working out for you that well.

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