DALLAS — Dallas County officials are beginning to overhaul their bond system to allow inmates to be released based on their risk level to the public instead of their ability to pay a bond.
Officials announced on Tuesday a plan to free more women locked up in Dallas County jail who are deemed low-risk to the public. The county hasn’t chosen a risk assessment tool yet, the Dallas Morning News reported .
Male inmates will also be eligible for risk-based release in the future, but officials are focusing on women first because they’re a smaller group with different needs, said Gordon Hikel, assistant county administrator.
The newspaper reported last month that the number of women awaiting trial in Texas county jails has risen by nearly 50 percent since 2011. The women waiting could be eligible for pretrial release on bond, but may not be able to afford it.
The report resulted in top Dallas County officials focusing on the jail’s more than 600 women, who make up 13 percent of inmates.
“Unfortunately, custody is designed for males,” said County Commissioner John Wiley Price. “We have some tremendous challenges.”
Women at the jail are required to be kept out of earshot and eyesight from men who are inmates. They also need different medical attention than the men.
Interim Sheriff Marian Brown said she wants to make sure the women in jail are given education and tools to improve their lives upon release.
“What are we giving people when they come to our facility?” she asked. “What are we sending back out?”
Harris County officials have also been dealing with bail reform efforts after an April federal court order determined the county’s bail system discriminates against poor people accused of misdemeanor crimes. An appeal by the county of the order is pending in court after some commissioners expressed concern that authorities are now required to release people potentially dangerous to the community.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com