Jails and prisons are coronavirus hotbeds, thanks to the inability to appropriately sanitize and socially distance in those kinds of environments. As such, some state governments have taken action to protect the prison population and workers from preventable COVID-19 infections and death. You can see the full list of updates for all 50 states here. The following is an overview of Texas’ recent actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Since states are constantly rethinking and shifting their policies as new information comes out, be sure to verify that the policies below are still in effect.
The Texas criminal justice response to COVID-19
Here are the most recent COVID-19 prison and criminal justice system policies, which may apply in and beyond Angleton:
- Canceled visitation and reduced phone calls: As of March 13, 2020, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice halted visitation until further notice, in an effort to reduce the number of people moving in and out of the prisons. At the time the article was written, Harris and Dallas County jails followed suit. Additionally, the Juvenile Justice Department stopped visitation, but was working to expand access to Skype. Harris County, at least, has been offering two free phone calls per inmate per week.
- Releasing inmates: As of March 16 (Travis County) and April 16 (Dallas County), some judges have opted to release low-risk inmates, or those with severe health issues. Inmates are screened for the virus before leaving and provided with instructions as to what to do if they have been exposed. The inmates are released on bond and expected to appear when court proceedings resume. This has been done in an effort to increase social distancing and protect the health of those for whom an infection could be fatal.
- Cite-and-release ordinances: In San Marcos, TX, officers have been authorized to issue citations instead of arresting people for low-level crimes, such as “possessing less than 4 ounces of marijuana, petty theft, theft of services, graffiti, criminal mischief, driving with an invalid license and several Class C misdemeanors.” Since then (as of April 2020), Austin and San Antonio have followed suit. Check your city and county to see if similar policies are in effect near you.
- COVID-19 mitigation plans: In March, Bexar County issued a mitigation plan for the entire county criminal justice system, including reduced contact policies for deputies, cite-and-release policies and disinfection procedures. Other counties have adopted similar plans, so be sure to check your city and county websites for more information.
- Health fee waivers: Finally, Governor Abbott has waived health fees for all inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system. This allows inmates to see doctors faster and more frequently, regardless of their ability to pay.
If you’re concerned about what Brazoria County is doing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, stay up to date with the county website. Prison and criminal justice policies in Angleton with regard to COVID-19 are subject to change as new information becomes available.
For help with bail bonds in Angleton, contact Brazoria County Bail Bonds today.