By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

GATESVILLE - Coryell County commissioners discussed using the probation office to help reduce overcrowding at the county jail.

"There are additional candidates that are sitting in the county jail that could be released with the proper supervision," said Coryell County Judge John Firth in regards to letting the Community Supervision Department monitor people who are released on bond.

The proposed plan could allow people charged with certain state-jail and third-degree felonies, such as forgeries and credit card/debit card abuse, to be released from jail before their trial by providing a personal recognizance bond and supervision by the probation office.

"This is not just a safety issue, but it is also an economic issue," said Commissioner Jack Wall during the meeting Monday.

The proposal would tackle the ongoing overcrowding conditions at the county jail, which cost about $700,000 during the 2010-11 fiscal year. The county is paying McLennan County Jail about $51 a day to house the overflow of inmates.

County Sheriff Johnny Burks said the proposed plan could save about $75,000 a year.

"The more you can get people out of the jail the more money you can save the county," said Wes Daniels, chief adult probation officer in Coryell County.

More importantly, Firth said the issues are about public safety, adding that an accused criminal would need to meet a criteria, such as not being a threat to other county residents or a flight risk, before qualifying for the plan.

The commissioners agreed that 52nd District Court Judge Trent Farrell, County Justices of the Peace and the District Attorney should provide some input in the development of the criteria.

"The people that are sitting in jail are typically the ones that should be there," said County Attorney Brandon Belt. "The people that are getting out of jail now are the ones that probably should be out."

Belt also said Bell County operates a similar plan, which Firth agreed to look and report back with the commissioners.

In Bell County, people charged with felonies rarely have bonds less than $20,000. Even the lowest level felony drug offenders - typically people found with trace amounts of cocaine or methamphetamine - usually have bonds set at least $20,000. Home burglaries, $50,000. Aggravated assaults, $100,000.

In Coryell County, bonds for felony charges range from $5,000 to the occasional $100,000. Some felony cases already receive the personal recognizance bond, which means people don't pay the bond amount unless they don't show up for trial.

Following the commissioners discussion, Coryell County resident Antonio Zapata presented a petition to the court requesting that the county not build a new jail because of tax increases.

"We know that a lot of (inmates) come form Copperas Cove," said Zapata. "We should just give Copperas Cove to Bell County and let them deal with it."

In November, county residents voted to build a 65,000-square-foot jail facility with 240 inmate beds and sheriff's office space. The estimated cost is $18.8 million.

The court also:

Submitted its application for the Department of Agriculture's Hog Out Plan in which Coryell County residents late last year killed 733 wild hogs and educated 64 residents about the feral animals.

Approved allowing CGI Communication to make a movie tour of Coryell County.

Approved two new board members to the Coryell County Child Welfare Board.

Contact Mason W. Canales at or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.

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