SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County taxpayers are set to save money following a vote to unify the bail hearing process for the city and county.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a city magistrate proposal, which would allow the city to take over all the magistrate process through a 24/7 video service.
Currently, the city and county have separate systems.
Commissioners say the process will improve things for those arrested by ensuring that they are vetted properly with a district attorney, public defender and medical services.
Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff said the move will help reduce jail overcrowding by ensuring that those who don’t need to be in jail are released quickly.
“We will have the city of San Antonio do all the magistration. We will pay them annually, which ultimately end up costing taxpayers of the county about ($200,000 to $300,000) less a year,” he said.
The vote comes a week after an inmate being held on misdemeanor charges died while in custody. His bond was set at $500.
“We were ending up with people in jail that should not have been in jail to begin with,” Wolff said. “Maybe it was criminal trespassing, not a danger to society, but because they weren’t being magistrated correctly, we would end up putting them in jail incorrectly. And we've had some serious repercussions.”
City leaders applauded the cost-saving collaboration process. The City Council will vote on the agreement May 2, and it could take effect as early as June.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert raised concerns about possible lawsuits that could arise from the new proposal. Currently, county district judges have the power to appoint magistrate judges. Magistrate judges will now work for the city.