DALLAS - Dallas County commissioners are revisiting the county’s bail bond system after a federal judge declared the bail bond program in Harris County was unconstitutional.
The purpose of the system is to ensure a person charged with a crime will show up for court and all pre-trial hearings. But in some cases across Texas, bonds have been set so high that people can't get out of jail.
Seroy Flowers is still trying to walk away from the nightmare he entered when he moved to Dallas from California in October 2014 and faced a felony assault charge.
“I was here nineteen days then I was in jail,” he said. “I was charged with assaulting a security guard, hitting him with my arm and elbow at my apartment where I used to live at.
Flowers’ bond was set at $40,000, which he could not make. He was foundered in jail after refusing to accept an eight-year prison term the DA offered.
“He spent 360 days waiting for trial before the district attorney dismissed the charge.” explained his attorney, Walter Musgrove.
The charges were dismissed because the security guard admitted to lying about the assault.
“Unfortunately, he was forced to sit in jail and await trial," Musgrove said. "Many of Dallas County indigent defendants are faced with that where if I can’t post a bond then I have to wait.”
“Texas has been deemed as a quote debtor's prison,” said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
The commissioners addressed the bail system after a federal judge in Houston declared Harris County's bail system was unconstitutional because high bonds kept people in jail unfairly.
“We are envisioning a system where the information that is necessary to make decisions is based on not somebody's resources, but upon their risk,” said Criminal District Court Judge Brandon Birmingham.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says a fix is necessary “for our indigent to be able to be let out of jail and be with their families during the time between disposition when they're not found guilty of anything.”
Flowers is trying to see his future again after losing everything.
“Every day is a struggle, just fighting to stay alive,” he said.
Flowers is suing the security guard, the company the guard worked for and the apartment complex.
Commissioners appointed a pre-trial release director who will create a new way to determine bond. Before bond will be set, there will be mental health screen risk and indigency assessment. Currently, indigency assessments are done after a bond is set. For pre-trial release, they will ask for increased personnel to monitor the individuals.