Judge Nelson Wolff: New magistrate program already a success

First-month numbers support need for change, county judge says

SAN ANTONIO – Statistics suggest a new magistrate system implemented on May 1 is already proving successful, according to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

“This is a very good indication that we’re off to a really good start,” Wolff said Monday after reviewing numbers released by the county’s Office of Criminal Justice.

The numbers show that mental health diversions doubled during the first month of the program.

Referencing those mental health numbers, Wolff said, “If we can help somebody on the front end, maybe we’ve changed their whole life around.”

He said that the numbers also reflect a decrease in jail population.

And perhaps the most significant thing, Wolff said, is the presence of a public defender for an arrested person. The numbers show a 131% increase in that presence, according to the statistics.

Administrative District Judge Ron Rangel is among the county and district judges opposed to the new program.

“If you were to ask 1,000 people who actually work in the trenches in the criminal justice system whether the program will be successful, you’ll get 999 responses that say it will not," Rangel said. “Numbers can always be manipulated."

The program is operating on a trial basis through the end of the year.

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