Will "Rocket Docket" alleviate congested court system?

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – It's designed to speed up court proceedings and free up jail space. Some know it as "Rocket Docket" and say it's a new answer to an old problem: jail overcrowding.

"We're always looking for ways to try to reduce the jail population and so by bringing folks over to see Judge Goodwin, we can either get them paper ready, if they're going to the prison unit or get them out on the street on probation if that's where they're headed," said Angelina County First Assistant District Attorney Art Bauereiss.

This summer, Angelina County started bringing several inmates before a judge at the same time.

"Prior to Judge Goodwin coming back and hearing cases to help expedite the release or the disposition on the inmates, we were constantly facing a problem with the jail being overcrowded," said Angelina County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jim Casper.

Their cases are resolved and for many it means prison time or probation.

"The sooner you can get cases resolved, the sooner you can focus your attention on things that have to go to trial, so by reducing the caseload that way, it's helpful to us," said Bauereiss.

Make no mistake, Bauereiss said it's no get out of jail free card.

"It doesn't mean just because they're getting to court quickly they're walking out of jail necessarily," said Bauereiss. "There's a good number of them that have been sentenced to prison."

Before "Rocket Docket," low-threat inmates often walked early to make more room.

"We, unfortunately, were having to release people way before time for their release date," said Casper.

They're still booking in a lot of inmates, but they're moving through faster. Casper said since Judge Goodwin has been hearing so many cases, the jail population has steadily gone down.

The jail reaches capacity at 276. In the summer the average population was around 250.

Now, officials say "Rocket Docket" is responsible for a low average of 220 inmates.

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