AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas locks up more people who can't afford to pay tickets and fines than any other state.

That could change if Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signs off on bipartisan bills that would require judges to offer alternatives such as community service, payment plans or waivers.

According to the Texas Judicial Council, which sets policy for the state's judicial branch, 95 percent of warrants issued in Texas last year were for fine-related offenses and more than 640,000 people spent at least one night in jail.

At an average of $60 per night per inmate, it cost counties significant money to jail offenders rather than find cheaper — or even profitable — alternatives.

Supporters of the bills say they would really improve the lives of the poor and would save taxpayer money.

Detractors say the measures are unnecessary and would give judges too much leeway to waive fines.


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