By Taylor Short
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE – As a short-term remedy to the overcrowding jail problem in Coryell County, commissioners discussed a grant application for a state program Monday that would potentially save money as well.
The program, if implemented, would supply an indigent defense coordinator to arrange the defense services for those facing criminal charges in the county. One way to keep the county jail less overcrowded – and to save money by shipping fewer inmates out of county – is to grant those who commit a minor offense and cannot afford to post bond a personal recognizance bond at the judge's or prosecutor's discretion, allowing them to pledge a personal guarantee that they will be present at their court date.
"I have seen this work in other places and having someone who specifically does that is really beneficial," said Gatesville attorney Scott Stevens, who also serves as court-appointed counsel for county felony defense. During the meeting, Stevens said with two or three people appointing attorneys, sometimes coordination problems occur that can lead to the county overpaying for defense services.
"You guys are basically paying for services twice," he said. "That's one area where you're going to save some money and some time in the court system by not having the confusion that you have now."
County Judge John Firth emphasized that a minor crime is a non violent, non-recurring crime by a person who is not deemed a flight risk.
He said Monday that the county received a response from the Texas Indigent Defense Task Force Friday allowing the county to continue the process after expressing intent to apply at a previous meeting.
Brian Wilson, a grants administrator with the TIDTF, will arrive in Gatesville Wednesday to discuss the program and application details with 52nd Judicial District Judge Trent Farrell and County Court-At-Law Judge Susan Stephens, Firth said.
About 20 grant requests made to the TIDTF by 18 counties made the list, with Coryell asking for a total of $219,000 over a four-year period and an estimated cash match amount of $29,500.
The state would pay 100 percent of the cost of the coordinator during the first year, 80 percent in the second year and 60 percent in the third year.
The current Coryell County jail is more than a decade old; according to a report by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the 92-bed capacity would be insufficient before the 20-year analysis period ends in 2027.
The jail would need no less than 144 beds daily until 2027; the report states that the Coryell County jail has exceeded that amount about nine times since the commission's analysis in 2007.
The application is expected to be submitted in April after approval by the court, Farrell and Stephens, Firth said.
Contact Taylor Short at email@example.com or (254) 501-7476. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcove.