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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Community pushes for funding for public defender’s office

Hays+County+Historic+Court+House.

Hays County Historic Court House.

At its Aug. 17 meeting, the Hays County Commissioners Court discussed inmate overpopulation at the Hays County Jail and held a workshop where citizens encouraged funding for a county public defender’s office.
Currently, 410 inmates serve time at the Hays County Jail. According to Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra, jail standards recommend lowering the population by 10% or 368 inmates.
As of now, Hays County is moving inmates to other county jails, including those in Blanco County, Comal County and Guadalupe County. The estimated cost for relocation of Hays County inmates is over $69,000.
Becerra held his second public workshop for his proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2022. During the workshop, three members of the local social justice organization Mano Amiga vocalized support for the creation of a public defender’s office and asked for $2.2 million of the budget to be allocated toward the creation of the office. Becerra has already allocated $600,000.
Public defenders represent citizens who cannot afford a private attorney and are protected through the U.S. Constitution. The assigned counsel are private attorneys who take court-appointed cases and are paid by the hour, whereas the public defender is an attorney who works solely for the government. According to Mano Amiga member Samantha Benavides, the public defender’s office ensures all citizens have access to quality representation.
“We should be investing in representation and not incarceration, research has shown that when compared to the model of the assigned council, public defender offices have been found to reduce days of pretrial incarceration, get cases dismissed or acquitted more often and secure shorter sentences for their clients that plead guilty,” Benavides says.
After the meeting, Texas State’s LBJ Student Center was approved as a voting center for the 2021 election. President of the League of Women Voters in Hays County Teresa Carbajal Ravet spoke on the importance of this voting location.
“To guarantee the voting rights of students, faculty and staff of Texas State [the LBJ Student Center] is an accessible location within campus with high pedestrian traffic and a second election date on site location will expand that access to the ballot box by mitigating stresses that voting centers experience,” Ravet says.
The Hays County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. For more information visit its website.

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