Denton County is adding a second grand jury to help alleviate its growing backlog of criminal cases.
Beginning on October 3, a weekly grand jury will be impaneled on Tuesdays, adding to the capacity of the weekly grand jury that convenes on Thursdays, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Currently, the county is experiencing a major backlog of hearings due to the temporary pause on proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some defendants with backlogged cases were forced to remain in the Denton County jail for long periods of time without a timely bail hearing, often receiving credit for time served when their cases were finally resolved.
As the number of people in the jail continued to increase, the jail was reportedly forced to transfer some defendants to jails in nearby counties while inmates awaited their hearing dates, per the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Additionally, the county’s growing population has led to an increase in criminal cases requiring grand jury review, further adding to the backlog of hearings and contributing to crowding at the jail.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Dallas County’s jail has been dealing with its own jail capacity issue amid a rise in criminal offenses and arrests over the summer. The jail is reportedly at 98% capacity and has allegedly been struggling to make sure inmates are getting what they need in terms of food and medicine.
The two grand juries in Denton will prioritize felony cases in which the defendants are still in jail.
Despite concerns that significant taxpayer funds would be needed to pay for the new grand jury, the body might be able to pay for itself since more cases will likely be processed in a timely manner. Significant county tax dollars could be saved at the jail, which could then be used to hire and train more guards and staff, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.