Tarrant County Bail Bond Specialists

How Has the Coronavirus Affected the Criminal Justice System in Texas?

\"CriminalThe COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on many aspects of life, especially the criminal justice system in Texas. With restrictions and lockdowns, the pandemic has directly impacted everything from how inmates can spend their time while in jail to how often inmates are allowed to have visitors.

If your loved one is currently in a Texas prison, it’s important to know how the jail is handling the pandemic and how the coronavirus in Texas can directly impact you or your loved one. To help you avoid any inconveniences in the future, we’ve put a together breakdown of how the criminal justice system in Texas has been impacted by the coronavirus.

Limited Jail or Prison Visits

Previously, due to the coronavirus in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott had prohibited in-person visitation at jails. However, on March 3, 2021, that changed when the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) issued guidelines that directed counties on how to make in-person visitation plans and submit them to the TCJS for approval.

For state prisons, as of March 15, 2021, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has allowed in-person visitations to resume in Texas. Visitors are required to book a visitation appointment wither via phone or through the online booking system.

At the federal prisons in Texas, however, visitation is still suspended, but inmates are allowed to have social visits accompanied by some restrictions.

Release without Bail or \”Cite and Release\”

Due to the nature of how the coronavirus has spread in Texas, counties and municipalities have been forced to reduce their inmate population for fear that there could be detrimental effects. Understand that inmates are generally in close proximities of each other, and the coronavirus spreads very quickly through close contact. Even if only a few inmates are infected, it could lead to massive outbreaks in the whole prison.

Due to this, some county and municipal jails have reduced their inmate populations by allowing pre-trial release in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

But not all inmates have this option. On March 29, 2020—more than a year ago—Governor Greg Abbott ordered limits on the types of inmates that were allowed to be released from prison without bail. Those previously convicted of violent crimes were not granted release…unless they could pay their bail amount. Many bail reform attorneys argued that this was unconstitutional.

In addition, in attempt to reduce jail populations, the TCJS provided a technical assistance memorandum last March that informed sheriffs and jail administrators to (1) \”explore options for releasing non-violent misdemeanor offenders with the local county/district attorney,\” and (2) \”explore options with local arresting agencies regarding \’cite and release\’ for those who commit non-violent crimes in order to reduce the number of individuals booked into the facility.\”

In other words, non-violent misdemeanor offenders have been granted permission to be released and those who have committed non-violent crimes can be cited and released.

Health & Safety Measures Taken by Jails and Prisons

Sadly, at Texas jails and prisons, there have been more inmate deaths than any other prison system in the United States. In total, 162 inmates have died due to coronavirus outbreaks.

With this, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison has ordered the Texas prison system to provide more protective measures that not just reduce the likelihood of an outbreak, but protect prisoners against the coronavirus (e.g., providing hand sanitizers and personal protection equipment).

In his ruling, Judge Ellison wrote, “But the Court views these measures as the most basic steps that TDCJ could have taken to prevent mass death within the prison walls on an unimaginable scale. Designing a policy and implementing some of the measures therein does not automatically satisfy Defendants’ constitutional obligations, especially in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis.”

In the memorandum stated above, all sheriffs and jail administrators were provided nine recommendations to protect inmates. These recommendations included screening everyone entering the facility, ensuring proper sanitation food services equipment, and informing staff and inmates at facilities about proper hand washing techniques.

Vaccination of Participants and Court Hearings

Vaccination is well on its way in Texas. Many Texans have been vaccinated already and many are eagerly in line to get it. However, courts in Texas have resumed in person-trials in Texas.  This means, gone are the days of virtual hearings.

What does this mean? If a participant in a court trial is seeking a tactical delay by saying they haven’t been vaccinated yet or that they need time until they are vaccinated, the court may not grant them a stay. In simple words: vaccination cannot be used as a reason to delay the in-person trial.

Courts in Texas are ready to get back to “normal” or as close to normal as they can get. In a recent case, one of the participants attempted a tactical delay under the guise of health, safety, and well-being of trial participants without vaccination, and it was overruled.

How Could PCS Bail Bonds Help?

At PCS Bail Bonds, we completely understand that things have changed a lot since the pandemic began—and they keep changing on daily basis. But rest assured that we are here to help you 24/7. We offer bail bondsman services in Fort Worth/Tarrant County and have been serving the Fort Worth/Tarrant County community for years.

Whether you have been arrested or you must bail out a loved one from jail, we know it can be a huge inconvenience during a global pandemic. It’s not easy and there are a lot of delays because of the coronavirus in Texas. For your convenience, we now also provide online bail bonds in Tarrant County.

Contact us now by phone at 817-335-1655, at our e-mail, visit in-person, or fill out our bail bond request form. Our experts are dedicated to helping you navigate the complexities of the justice system. We are always on call and ready to help you.

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