A stone's throw from the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Jail sits a little Edinburg side street named Bail Bond Drive. Several bail bond businesses sit on the appropriately named lane. The businesses help family, friends and others get people out of jail on bail.
Most people arrested in Edinburg on felony or misdemeanor charges have a bail amount set by a judge. If the defendant can't pay the court the full amount in order to be released from custody, a friend or family member can go to a bondsman, pay a fee and get the defendant temporarily released from jail.
The defendant will still have to show for court appearances, of course. And the fee paid to the bail bondsman is non-refundable.
The Nation says the bail bond system is an unjust part of the justice system. "Seventy percent of people in jail haven't been convicted of a crime. They just can't afford bail," the magazine stated below the headline for a recent article.
While much of the piece focuses on people and problems at a Louisiana jail, many of the same issues are evident in Hidalgo County and across Texas. Those who are arrested are often unable to afford bail or even a bondsman.
So they sit in jail, making them more psychologically inclined each day in custody to enter plea agreements offered by prosecutors. Even if they are innocent of the charges, some people will accept plea deals that guarantee future time in custody just so that they can get out of suffocating jail conditions in the moment.
The Nation points out that people who are sitting in jail have often not even been charged with a crime, let alone convicted. Yet they are held because they lack the money required of defendants to make those jail doors swing open.
If you face the possibility of a prison sentence if you are convicted of charges you face, you can speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your legal options.