‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime change in the criminal justice system’: New program will overhaul indigent defense in Bexar County

Managed Assigned Council System will go into effect on Oct. 1

SAN ANTONIO – It’s being called a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system in Bexar County.

Starting in October, The Managed Assigned Council System, or MAC, is set to go into effect. Officials hope it will improve legal services for defendants who are indigent, meaning they don’t have enough money to pay for a lawyer.

In Bexar County, roughly 80% of people who get arrested are indigent, meaning eight out of ten people get a court-appointed attorney. That costs the county about $15 million a year.

“Currently, we don’t have any metrics to see where the money goes and we don’t have any understanding as to how to improve the system,” administrative judge Ron Rangel said.

Rangel, who’s been working on this system for years proposed it to the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court. It was approved in June.

“The system, it’s been referred to as a once-in-a-lifetime change in the criminal justice system. It is a reform,” Rangel said. “It’s going to make criminal justice more accountable to the people.”

The MAC System, which will receive 80% of its funding from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, will be made up of a director, executive committee board, and 16 hired individuals.

The system will be tasked with many duties including -- keeping track of the court-appointed attorney caseload, providing more resources to indigent defenses, appointing court-appointed attorneys to cases and making sure those attorneys are doing a good job.

“Attorneys are going to be supervised and looked over by a manager, outside counsel, a program that is outside the judge’s hands, that is going to ensure that fairness exists across the board as it relates to representation,” Rangel said.

While other MAC Systems exist in other counties, this is the first one that is a complete overhaul of felony, misdemeanor and juvenile cases, Rangel said.

“It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, you’re going to be happy that it is going to save a significant amount of taxpayer dollars and it’s going to be accountable,” Rangel said.

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About the Author:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with more than 12 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter.