Dallas commissioners, sheriff's dept. talk jail chain, jail popu - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Dallas commissioners, sheriff's dept. talk jail chain, jail population problems

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Officials with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department spoke Tuesday at a commissioners’ meeting about issues with moving inmates from the jail to the courthouse and back.  

Sheriff’s officials moved 7,000 inmates back and forth in the month of May as part of what is called the jail chain, and they say most of the inmates who are awaiting trial aren’t even going to the courthouse for court. Sheriff’s officials say that creates a lot of work and worry for public safety.

Deputies transport between 350 and 400 inmates from the jail to the courthouse every day.

“Only about 25 to 30 percent of those are actually having some type of court hearing; either a trial by judge, a plea, a jury trial,” said Cpt. Mark Howard with the sheriff’s department.

Howard says the rest of the inmates are doing things that should be done at the jail: visiting with defense attorneys, meeting with probation officials or even seeing the jail psychologist.

“Every inmate that gets pulled and gets brought to the court desk, that’s a risk,” said Howard. “That’s an escape risk. That’s an incident risk. That’s somebody who has the ability to escape or bring back contraband.”

Judges decide on the inmates to be brought to the courts.

“The judge is in charge of coordinator; the judge is in charge of defense attorney; the judge is in charge of the state, the prosecutor; the judge is in charge of probation; the judge,” said Commissioner John Wiley Price at the meeting.

Judge Rick Magnis presides over felony courts. He told FOX 4 by phone, “We can't resolve every case with just one court appearance. Sometimes it is to visit with probation...we all want the same thing; we want to get them out of jail as soon as possible while maintaining public safety."

Judge-elect Tammy Kemp, an assistant D.A. who ran for judge and won, told commissioners that judges have a duty to make sure people waiting get a quick date in court.

Because as quiet as it’s kept, there are some innocent people in the jail awaiting their day in court,” said Kemp.

Some courts have a worse track record than others in terms of how many inmates they are putting on the chain every day, but cases aren’t being disposed.

Commissioners are going to study that to see which judges may be the greatest offenders.

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