Counties across Texas are beginning to take advantage of probation-type programs to ensure that limited county jail space is most effectively used. At the same time, the counties can look forward to millions in savings.

In Angelina County, judges are placing would-be jail detainees on a “rocket docket,” which ensures a speedy assessment of each defendant’s risk factors. The risk analysis is then used to determine whether pre-trial probation is sufficient, or if detention is necessary to protect public safety. As a result, county jail populations are down by an average of 50 detainees each month. Because such detention costs $45 per day, the county could realize savings of over $900,000 per year.

Similarly, Coryell County is increasing the number of low-level defendants who are released on a personal recognizance bond with probation-style supervision prior to their trial, rather than allowing low-risk defendants who cannot afford to pay a bond to languish in jail—on the taxpayers’ dime. By limiting such releases to low-level offenders, Coryell County’s tactic preserves public safety, while still preventing jail overcrowding and saving $51 per inmate per day.

The use of such probation-style pre-trial supervision ensures that county jail space—which is both expensive and limited—is available for those defendants who do pose a risk to public safety and must be detained prior to their trials. Low-level defendants who pose no such risk can be safely released and save counties unnecessary detention expenditures.