Texas lawmakers pass bail system rewrite aimed at keeping more people behind bars who can’t post cash
The House embraced new limits on bail bonds and how to get people, accused of violent crimes, out of jail. They balked, however, at a the Senate’s bill that barred charitable groups from posting bail.
A revision of the process for releasing accused criminals on bail was passed by the Texas Legislature on Tuesday, nearly three months after the GOP-priority legislation stalled.
Senate Bill 6, requires people, accused of violent crimes, to put up cash to get out of jail. It cleared the House Monday on an 85-40 vote. The vote was largely along party lines. The Senate had also passed the legislation earlier this month on a 27-2 vote.
The Senate accepted House changes to the legislation Tuesday. The bill now goes to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law.
It wasn’t until last week that a House committee removed a controversial provision that would have restricted charitable groups from posting bail for defendants. This practice became popular last summer when groups posted bail to release people arrested while protesting the death of George Floyd.
On Friday, House members added a similar provision back into the bill. It does not limit the ability of these groups to post bail. The amendment actually would require charitable bail funds and require them to be certified by county officials as nonprofit organizations. They would also be required to file reports on who they bond out of jail.
“The original bill that came over [from the Senate] was essentially going to outlaw … the charitable bail process,” said state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, on his amendment. “We made it very clear to the other side of the building that this would not stand.”
SB 6 changes how people can be released from jail before their criminal cases are resolved. Currently, the ability of a defendant to post cash usually determines how most Texan get released from jail. Some jurisdictions are releasing more people accused of low-level crimes without requiring money. In part, the bill would limit when people without cash could be released.
Much of the bill is widely supported. Requiring judicial training, collecting data and requiring officials to look at a defendant’s criminal history before setting bail were all supported.
Civil rights advocates and Democrats fought against other significant portions of the legislation. The argument is that it will lead to discrimination.
The bill would ban the release of those accused of violent crimes on personal bonds. These don’t require cash but can include additional hardships like GPS ankle monitoring or routine drug testing. Many Civil rights advocates have argued that cashless bonds will exacerbate wealth-based detention and lead to overfilled jails.
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