First, let me set the context for you. In September of last year, Vince Perez pushed forth a county initiative to create a county pre-trial department and look at making changes at the county jail. In May, the county approved establishing the pretrial services office to be opened on October 1, 2015. The county budgeted about $227,000 to start the operation.
Throughout the process, Vince Perez advocated for the new office by stating that his proposed office would “improve processes,” “reduce jail populations” and “decrease” the costs to incarcerate individuals. Perez argued that this would be accomplished “without compromising public safety.” The Council of State Governments Justice Center report released on Monday is part of the result of Perez’ push to create the county’s pre-trial office. The county paid $53,000 to be included in the study.
Focus on two very specific facts about the new county office. The first is that the county is taking over a larger responsibility in tracking and managing those arrested. The other is that Vince Perez has strongly advocated allowing arrestees a cheaper and faster way to get out of jail by relying on more personal recognizance bonds.
The report, according to the El Paso Times, KDBC and KVIA, shows that “21 percent” of the individuals jailed in 2011 “were re-arrested” within a year. In 2012, the rate was “22 percent.” Of significance is the “42 percent of those released on personal recognizance” were re-arrested “after two years,” according to Aileen B. Flores’ El Paso Times article on August 10, 2015.
Therefore, let us take a close look at what Vince Perez told the news media about the study.
KVIA’s Andrew Polk reported on August 10, 2015 “Vince Perez and other commissioners will be looking to fix” some “serious problems” at the El Paso jail system. Polk quotes Perez as follows:
“There’s also a very high rate of re-offending for those let out on PR, or personal recognizance bonds: 42 percent.” Perez adds in the KVIA interview that the PR bond statistics “shows a definite need for change.”
Perez further adds, “There has been, in my opinion, a gap in the services provided to individuals who are on PR bonds and really a lack in oversight in those individuals who are on PR bonds.”
Remember that Vince Perez has never discussed how individuals released on PR bonds get rearrested. Obviously he has not offered a solution to that problem. Further more he exasperates it by making it “easier” to get out of jail through PR bonds.
KDBC, in its report without a byline, quoted Vince Perez as stating that no one has ever “really looked at the numbers to see how many individuals are reentering” the jail system. KDBC also quoted Vince Perez as stating that County “needs to improve how those released are supervised.”
So what is the problem, Vince Perez is stating that he wants to fix the issues identified in the report?
According to the El Paso Times, “El Paso County officials were not able to provide a clear answer as to why such a large number of cases to not have the state identification number.”
Clearly, the County has failed in a very basic requirement in processing arrestees. According to the report, 25% of the arrestees were never properly issued a Texas Department of Public Safety identification.
Vince Perez has successfully argued for the expenditure to create a county office that will take on more responsibilities for arrestees, yet this is the same government entity that could not properly assign an identification number. The county is spending more of your money but the most basic requirement has not been addressed.
How is the money that Vince Perez has forced you to spend going to fix the problems the report has identified?
News Media Failures
The report revealed some serious problems that have not been addressed by Vince Perez and the other commissioners who have embarked upon spending your money to give the county more authority over those arrested. However, none in the news media reported this inconvenient fact.
For example, KVIA did not report that the personal recognizance bonds are strictly a county problem. In other words, the high rate of re-offenders (42%) falls squarely on the lap of how the county processes them. The bond companies that Vince Perez wants run out of business by increasing personal recognizance bonds supervised by the county are not the problem.
Another serious issue with KVIA’s report is that it completely ignores the serious problem of the 25% of arrestees that were never assigned the so-called SID number. This failure is another clear example of the county’s failure in its duties.
As if KVIA’s report wasn’t already lacking in context and detail it inexplicably jumps away from the issues presented by the report into the preservation of records from 1889 to 1914. The two are unrelated but KVIA’s Polk takes the viewer in that direction within the same piece. This is an excellent example of distracting away from the inconvenient questions into an unrelated issue. Whether Andrew Polk, KVIA or both did this on purpose or whether it is the result of incompetent news reporting is unknown at this time, however the end result is the same.
In the KDBC report and in previous interviews, Vince Perez has argued that a 24/7 magistrate will mitigate many problems including the issue of arrestees not being assigned a SID number.
However, ignored in all of the news reports is that DIMS is a significant reason of why many arrestees do not see a magistrate after being arrested. I have covered the issue of DIMS over many blog posts so many of you know about the underlining problem. For those of you who have not kept up with the DIMS issue, just note that DIMS, unique to El Paso (Tarrant County uses a similar system but different from El Paso), applies a bond to an arrestee without ever having the arrestee go before a magistrate.
Vince Perez’ proposed office advocates making a magistrate available at all times but at no time has the issue of how DIMS bypasses the magistrate has not being addressed. In other words, like the other issues of county incompetence and easier PR bonds for arrestees likely to be arrested, are completely ignored by Perez and the news media. How does that address the serious problem pointed out by the report?
More importantly, how is it possible that the news media collectively ignored this context to the problem?
The county has embarked on spending more taxpayer monies while ignoring the results of the report it commissioned that shows that none of the serious issues are being addressed by the new taxpayer expenditures.
This is why taxes are never enough to address the myriad of problems in the city.