SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar Gives Back sentencing program has had a successful first year, saving thousands of taxpayer dollars and keeping 125 nonviolent offenders out of jail.
In 2020, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar was looking for ways to lower the jail population and got help from 226th Criminal District Court Judge Velia Meza.
The two launched the Bexar Gives Back program as a way for nonviolent offenders to complete their sentences and stay out of jail.
“Instead of spending time in jail, they’re out giving back to the community by way of work,” Salazar said.
The nonviolent offenders in the program are usually recommended after a selection process and volunteer to be part of it.
The work includes different types of community service for four consecutive Saturdays.
“You’re looking at over $400,000 that we didn’t have to spend because we gave the nonviolent offenders this opportunity,” Meza said.
The hope is to continue to expand the program by offering more volunteer opportunities and having more judges using it.
“It’s a win-win situation,” County Court 15 Judge Melissa Vara said. “A win for them, and they’re able to serve their sentence and provide a service to the community.”