San Marcos City Council follows county’s lead, establishes criminal justice reform committee

Hays County recently renewed its focus on the local criminal justice system to address the jail’s soaring inmate population and steep operating costs—and now the city of San Marcos is following suit.

San Marcos City Council voted unanimously May 7 to establish a committee on criminal justice reform. The committee’s charge is to review the city’s ordinances and standard operating procedures relating to criminal justice, and to come up with ways to make the city’s practices more fair and equitable.

Council members Ed Mihalkanin, Lisa Prewitt and Mark Rockeymoore were appointed to the committee.  

Prewitt and Mihalkanin said that in addition to working with the Hays County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, the newly established City Council committee will also work to see how it can improve the local criminal justice system as a municipality.

“So the county had worked on [criminal justice system reform] in 2010,” Prewitt said. “I think the fire went out and now it’s been rejuvenated. I think having the municipalities in the county where our prison system is located getting on board and starting these other committees to work with them and bringing our law enforcement into the conversation is only going to help.”

Prewitt said she would like the committee to consider measures like diversion programs.

“Say somebody gets picked up stealing something from the store,” she said. “Why are they stealing? Maybe they have an alcohol or a drug problem. Well, let’s treat the alcohol or the drug problem and not put them in prison—where their life becomes even more frustrating, more difficult; they lose their jobs, their homes and car payments and it just becomes a rippling effect.”

Mihalkanin, who initiated the establishment of the committee, said that following review of city ordinances and practices, he wants the committee to bring forward some sort of actionable plan  for the council to consider by the beginning of August—before the city’s next budget is finalized.

“There’s been a substantial conversation not only in Texas but throughout the United States about different issues concerning arrests versus ticketing, bail amounts, incarceration—its effects on lower-income people,” he said.

Council Member Joca Marquez, who was originally going to serve as a committee member, gave her seat to Rockeymoore.

Rockeymoore said he ran for City Council on a platform of criminal justice reform which is  informed by his past encounters with law enforcement.

“I can guarantee you that nobody on this dais has had as much experience with law enforcement on the other side of it than I have,” Rockeymoore said. “All of these statistics that y’all are bouncing around that are abstract are not abstract to me. That has been my life.”

Prewitt cited Hays County Jail statistics provided by County Judge Ruben Becerra at the May 7 Commissioners Court meeting. The data showed that the county spent approximately $11,328 a day in the previous week on outsourcing inmates due to overcrowding, with a peak number of 536 inmates.

“The lives that we can make better and the money that we can save in our communities—it says it right there,” Prewitt said. “[We want to look] at what we can do as a municipality to make those numbers better, I would like to see that.”
By Anna Herod
Anna Herod covers local government, education, business and the environment as the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Lewisville/Flower Mound/Highland Village edition. In the past, Anna served as the reporter for Community Impact's San Marcos/Buda/Kyle paper. Her bylines have appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Hays Free Press and The Burleson Star. She is a graduate of Texas State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


MOST RECENT

A new P. Terry's Burger Stand is under construction in Kyle near Evo Entertainment and The Home Depot. (Courtesy P. Terry's Burger Stand)
P. Terry's to open Kyle location

A new P. Terry's Burger Stand is under construction in Kyle near Evo Entertainment and The Home Depot.

In addition to a selection of beverages, Kyle's Daily Grind offers baked goods. (Courtesy Pexels)
Kyle's Daily Grind now open

In addition to a selection of beverages, Kyle's Daily Grind offers baked goods.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special legislative session will begin July 8. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces special legislative session to start July 8

Agenda items will be announced before the session begins, according to a release from the governor's office.

Movies in Your Park is held at San Marcos Plaza Park on select dates from June 22-Aug. 3. (Courtesy city of San Marcos)
San Marcos' Movies in Your Park kicks off June 22 with 'Frozen 2'

Four free movie screenings will be held in the San Marcos Plaza Park from June 22-Aug. 3.

ATMAC will hold a grand reopening at its new location July 10, with a special offer for new students. (Courtesy Camera Eye Photography)
Austin Texas Martial Arts Center relocates in Kyle

ATMAC will hold a grand reopening at its new location July 10, with a special offer for new students.

Volunteers of Austin Vaccine Angels gathered after becoming fully vaccinated. (Courtesy Jodi Holzband)
Grassroots groups aimed at vaccine outreach look toward the future

For the past five months, grassroots volunteer groups have been working to connect thousands of Central Texans to COVID-19 vaccines.

Washington Prime Group Inc. owns six area shopping centers, including The Arboretum. (Courtesy The Arboretum)
Owner of Austin-area shopping centers files for bankruptcy; entertainment complex coming to Cedar Park and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones speaks during the FM 2001 groundbreaking event. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT breaks ground on Buda's FM 2001 project

A realignment of the roadway is intended to drastically improve safety on a section of FM 2001 in Buda while also adding bike lanes and sidewalks.

Ghostletics Gym offers month-to-month memberships and day passes, and also offers on-site sports therapy. (Courtesy Ghostletics Gym)
Ghostletics Gym now open in Buda

Ghostletics Gym offers month-to-month memberships and day passes, and also offers on site sports therapy.

The Bloomhouse—an 1,100-square-foot home in the hills of West Austin—was built in the 1970s by University of Texas architecture students for fellow student Dalton Bloom. It was featured in the Austin Weird Homes Tour of 2020. (Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Weird Homes Tour ends; Z’Tejas to close Arboretum restaurant and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

A variety of road projects in Buda may be funded by a November bond referendum, which could be valued at more than $50 million. (Joe Warner/Community Impact Newspaper)
Buda considers transportation bond package for November election

A variety of road and park projects in Buda may be funded by a November bond referendum, which could be valued at more than $50 million.