SAN ANTONIO - The Bexar County Jail is getting closer to reaching its maximum capacity, so county leaders are getting creative in an effort to curb the growth.
The jail is designed to hold about 4,500 inmates, but right now there are more than 4,000 behind bars.
"We're at point that, by summer, if we don't do something, we're going to have some overcrowding issues," Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.
Bexar County did a quick remodel of a couple of old spaces in the basement of the courthouse and created a full time and part-time court aimed at getting older cases resolved quickly.
So far, the new courtrooms seem to be helping.
A joint task force aimed at arresting high-risk offenders is partially to blame for the increase in inmates. Since January, approximately 1,500 of those targeted have been locked up.
With the blessing of county commissioners, Bexar County Judicial Services quickly created what it calls "Impact Courts" to help relieve the crowding.
"We have a full-time court that does trials and works cases, from murder cases to aggravated sexual assault to robberies," said Mike Lozito, the Bexar County Judicial Services director.
A part-time court handles cases that have plea deals or motions that don't require a lot of time. Each case referred to the Impact Courts comes from the district courts that experience a backlog.
"They don't want to pick a case where the offense took place a month ago and it's not really ready for trial. They want to pick something the judge right here can just jump right into and start trying right away," said Melissa Barlow Fischer, general administrative counsel for Criminal District Courts.
Since its beginning May 1, 2017, the full-time Impact Court has disposed of 30 cases. The part-time Impact court, which started last week, has processed 84 cases.
"That's probably 84 cases that would have been reset," Fischer said.
Reset cases mean more time behind bars for those inmates waiting for their day in court.
Right now, the Impact Courts are considered pilot programs. County commissioners will reassess the Impact Courts in July to determine if and how long they should be extended.
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