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The Road to a Jail vs Prison


SheriffThe Road to a Jail vs Prison

Folks often use the terms jail and prisons interchangeably; and they are unclear about the judicial process used that gets an offender placed in the county jail through to the determination if the offender is released, confined to the county jail, or to a state prison.

Once a crime is committed within Kendall County, if the suspect is immediately arrested (the deputy witnesses the crime), the deputy books the suspect into the county jail. If the suspect is unknown at the time of the crime, the Criminal Investigative Division (CID) of the Sheriff's Office investigates the crime to determine circumstances surrounding the incident, collects evidence, and identifies the suspect. Once CID identifies the suspect, law enforcement executes a Warrant of Arrest and books the suspect into the county jail. The suspect is held there until their initial appearance before the Magistrate

There are four Magistrates within Kendall County. The suspect will appear before the respective magistrate within 48 hours. At that time, the suspect appears before the respective Magistrate.  The Magistrate will:

  • review the documentation to ensure all legalities are met;
  • meet with the suspect;
  • ensure the suspect completely understands their rights;
  • assess the indigency of the suspect, and determine if the suspect needs an attorney appointed; and
  • question the suspect regarding their mental status-potential for harm to self or need for commitment.

If the Magistrate Judge remands the suspect for court, the magistrate may or may not set a bond, usually predicated on the suspect's background and type of crime committed. A bond is an amount of money paid as insurance that the suspect will return for the court date. Typically, the more serious the crime, the great the bond.

Someone other than the suspect can pay the bond, which will release the offender from jail until the court date. However, before you agree to do so, you must fully understand that if the suspect fails to report for court when scheduled, you are responsible for the full amount of the bond set by the Magistrate.

Often, attorneys (defense and prosecution) can settle a crime out of court. To do so, the suspect's attorney and the prosecuting attorney from County District Attorney's Office work together to develop a plea agreement. If the defense and prosecution establish a plea agreement, the suspect pleads guilty under the agreement, and the Court accepts the plea agreement, the offender is sentenced per the conditions identified in the plea agreement. Under these circumstances, there is no trial.

There is one District Judge for Kendall County. In the absence of a plea agreement, the suspect proceeds to trial either before a jury or before the District Judge. If the trial verdict is guilty, Pretrial Services completes a presentence investigation; and the Court sentences the offender to probation, confinement, or both. The level of the offense (misdemeanor or felony) and term of confinement (one year or less or more than one year) will determine if the offender is confined to the county jail or to a state prison. Misdemeanor convictions carry sentences of probation and/or a jail term of one year or less. If a term of confinement is assessed, the offender proceeds to the county jail. Felony convictions receive a sentence of more than one year, and those offenders are committed to a state prison facility.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak across the state of Texas, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institution Division, lost 38 correctional officers in the line of duty to COVID; and the state delayed or canceled the transfer of inmates to state facilities to quell the spread of the disease within the state prison facilities. Under this circumstance, the county jail keeps those offenders longer than the year limitation, which has exacerbated our need to house offenders out of the County, at an additional cost. The state does not provide reimbursement to the County.

Through the budget process this year, as discussed in last month's article, we will be able to expand the existing county jail by 51 beds and that process has begun.

As always, the Kendall County Sheriff's Office appreciates the outstanding support we received from the communities we serve to protect. We could not do our jobs without your support, and we thank you!

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