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New law possible reason for overcrowding of Nueces County Jail

Posted at 9:28 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 22:49:55-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Texas Senate Bill 6 was passed last year and became the Damon Allen Act.

The Damon Allen Act bans people who committed violent crimes from being released on personal recognizance bonds, instead requiring them to pay in cash or pay a percentage to bail bonds.

The Nueces County Jail is currently at 100 percent capacity, Nueces County Sheriff J. C. Hooper said.

The Nueces County Board of Judges is discussing how the new law is affecting bonds and the jail system.

The law says people cannot be released on bail if they have a prior assault.

Melissa Madrigal, Nueces County Court at Law Judge No. 1 said the Board of Judges has been looking at what they can do for non-violent offenders.

The board is also discussing how the new law affects cases at the municipal level.

Corpus Christi attorney Kyle Hoelscher said this new law is contributing to the 100 percent capacity at the Nueces County Jail.

He said this new law is creating restrictions that are prohibiting people from making bail.

“I think that in a year, we’re going to have a huge population of people directly affected by SB6 that cannot get out of jail - even though they’re low risk offenders for other reasons - because of all the burdens placed by SB6, they can’t get out,” Hoelscher said.

He added that this new law would create more inmates at the jail over time, and also expands a judge’s ability to restrict someone from getting a bond.

That means they would not be able to get out of jail for any reason at all.

“That seems to be a clear cut violation of both the Texas Constitution and the federal constitution,” Hoelscher said.

State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa on the other hand, said he voted for SB6 because he said it will get violent people off the streets.

“Before Senate Bill 6, we would have too many defendants who were violent and convicted criminals being released on recognizance bonds while the judge doesn’t know the criminal history of that person,” Hinojosa said.

He said that it would allow criminals to commit additional crimes against the public.

The overcrowding at the Nueces County Jail can be attributed to the pandemic, which caused courts to close down.

When that happened, cases weren’t going to the court and that is what’s causing overcrowding at the jails, he said.

It is too soon to tell if the new law is also contributing to overcrowding, he added.

Hinojosa said it’s going to take a while to see how the new law works.

As of right now, he doesn’t have any suggestions because legislators can always make adjustments to the law in the next legislative session.