Should non-violent offenders be released from jail amid trial delays? Attorneys respond

Local News

BROWNSVILLE — Jury trials and jury selections are being pushed back another two months in Cameron county according to the Office of Court Administrators.

Trials have been postponed since March and have created a backlog of cases, meanwhile, inmates are in jail unable to pay their bond.

“If the jail reaches a critical mass you can literally have a nursing home scenario, we have multiple individuals being in there, get sick and possibly die,” said defense attorney Ricardo Barrera.

Since March, Barrera has worked to take his low-level offending clients from incarcerated to out on bond.

To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at Carrizalez Rucker Detention Center, however, jails, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice data there are over 5,000 positive cases, with 36 presumed COVID-19 deaths, and 29 pending causes of death.

“If you could have jail you run the risk of putting yourself in a dire circumstance” Barrera said.

Attorney Ricardo A. Barrera has successfully argued for each of his clients at the county jail to be released.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz sees the importance of protecting the jails, jurors, and all staff from coming into contact following the decision from OCA to keep trials delayed to August.

With the delay comes the additional need to pay for jail services and extended time in jail, that cost is placed on the taxpayer.

”Taxpayers are paying $50 a day…and you know that person’s liberty’s being restrained, so we’re very concerned about that too…”

Barrera suggests if the state is unwilling to reduce bonds for low-level offenders who are not flight risks or dangers to themselves or the community, testing is needed.

“It would be a good investment for the state or government at any level to ensure that every single inmate that is confined, at any time, is tested for COVID-19, because if for whatever reason, we start slipping through the cracks… people could literally die because they were charged incorrectly or completely innocent.”

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