Bexar County pilot program for defendants facing minor charges touted a success

Sheriff says program saved taxpayers over $20,000 in its first month

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said a pilot program launched last month that allows defendants facing low-level felony or misdemeanor charges an opportunity to avoid jail time by performing community service is “a win-win on all sides.”

The Bexar Gives Back program has been in operation for a short amount of time, but it is already making a difference, according to Salazar.

BCSO, judges launch pilot project similar to work-release program

The program allows participants an opportunity to avoid jail time by working weekends doing landscaping and cleanup work around the jail and other county properties.

“The participants have a sense that they’re giving back to the community,” Judge Velia Meza said Wednesday.

Meza, along with Judge Melissa Vara and the sheriff, launched the program last month.

Salazar said the program has already saved taxpayers money.

“We’ve already saved $16,000 in housing costs and another $4,000 in hourly wages we would have paid to landscaping companies,” he said.

There are currently 21 people participating in the program.

Prior to placement, participants are screened by the judges based on staff recommendations. The sheriff has the final word on approval based primarily on the applicant’s criminal history.

Salazar said he hopes to expand the program to include roadside cleanups.

“I would also like to expand this out to help out some of the nonprofits or do more graffiti cleanups,” he said.

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