Policy attorney Elizabeth Henneke said this time around she and other advocates will make the case that the change would save money and increase safety.
The debate shouldn't be all about money, though, said Henneke, who works with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Henneke pointed to the recent death of Fort Bend County Jail inmate Emmanuel Akueir, a 17-year-old authorities said hanged himself.
"If we had passed this last session, that 17-year-old would not have been in that facility. So we're talking lives here," Henneke said. "Every year we don't pass this bill, that's another one of those kids. If you want to talk about costs, ask his parents about costs."
During last year's legislative session, the Senate approved a proposal to weaken the program. That measure died in the House. However, another bill passed that reduced some of the surcharges. Senators' comments at Wednesday's hearing suggested a strong interest in either dramatically reforming the program or scrapping it entirely when the Legislature meets again next year.
Elizabeth Henneke, a policy attorney at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, endorsed that approach and recommended using court costs and fees to replace any lost trauma care funding. She described one case she worked on in which a single DWI for a 67-year-old woman eventually escalated into $25,000 in fines and several prison stays.
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