Judge says bail bond reform keeps low level offenders out of jail

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - The Texas state senate will soon hear a bill that lawmakers say will speed up the process of releasing low level offenders from state jails.

It's a system judges in the Bryan/College Station area already putting into place.

College Station Municipal Court Judge Ed Spillane tries a number of cases that many would consider "low level."

For years he says he makes it a point to try and keep people out of jail.

"Once I see someone, if they can't bond out, I release them,” said Spillane.

Spillane says the goal is to only arrest those who fail to return to court, abuse alcohol in public and those involved in violent crimes.

"It's important because people should not be in jail because of their economic status,” said Spillane. “They should be in jail if it's a very violent crime."

Even though College Station’s jail has already put this into practice, Judge Spillane says it's time for the entire state to get on board.

"What Senate Bill 1338 does is forces magistrates and judges to do a risk assessment and to make sure that those who are in jail are in there to protect society and for those who have no excuse for failing to come to court," said Spillane.

Bail Bondsmen Gage Gandy says the bill is too radical of a change and the pretrial "risk-assessment" system will miss the mark with offenders.

"It's just not a blanket situation,” said Gandy. “If we take the discretion away from judges I think it would be very impartial.”

Gandy believes judges locally already do a good job of making sure the right people are behind bars, but if this legislation passes, Gandy says it would be more work for the courts

"We do a better job of assessing risk and also getting people to court,” said Gandy. “If people are let out with no financial bail people who don't show up to court; our county government would be liable for those costs."

Last week, the bill was referred to the Committee on Criminal Justice.