DA issues new policy after deaths of homeless, mentally ill inmates

BEXAR COUNTY, Texas - In response to the deaths of homeless and mentally ill people held in jail on criminal trespass charges, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has instituted the following policy effective April 20. 

Until further notice, the office will reject criminal trespass charges in the following situations: 

  • The offense occurs at a nonresidential location
  • Criminal trespass is the only charge
  • The defendant appears to be homeless
  • The defendant does not have any violent history and is not currently on probation/deferred for any offense. 

However, if there is any indication that there is a mental health issue, the case needs to proceed to the JIAA, where the accused can potentially get a mental health evaluation/assessment.

This policy does not prevent officers from making an arrest.

These guidelines should not be interpreted in any way that infringes on law enforcement's discretion to ensure public safety or the safety of the individual being arrested.

The decision to prosecute the case will be made by a prosecutor based on the specific facts of each case, a risk assessment and a mental health evaluation.
 
“We are continuing to develop our policy regarding this issue and are working with law enforcement and mental health professionals to better serve the community and find workable solutions to this problem,” said Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales.

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