HAYS COUNTY, Texas — Hays County commissioners are spending more money to send inmates to detention centers in other counties.
The newest deal is with a private detention center in Haskell County, north of Abilene. It’s a tri-party deal with both Haskell County and LaSalle Corrections West.
Hays County has inmates in eight different counties across the state, some as far as 363 miles away.
County Judge Ruben Becerra said the County spent about $80,000 on outsourcing inmates last week alone, and $3.7 million this year.
Now, the County is adding another deal worth up to about $17 million over the next three years to send inmates to a private detention center – LaSalle Corrections West in Haskell County.
Community advocate Eric Martinez said that housing inmates in other counties denies them the ability to meet with their lawyers as much as they should.
“Eighty percent of people who are in our detention center are legally innocent individuals, who have only been charged but not convicted of the crime for which they’re accused. And they’re simply there because they are too poor to afford bail,” said Martinez.
Four county commissioners voted in favor of the plan. The only vote against the plan was Judge Becerra. He said the County needs to find ways to reduce the county detention center population. One way he hopes to do that is by the creation of a public defender’s office.
“We have had years and years of neglect, and our communities have suffered for it financially; our neighbors have suffered for it by incarcerating our neighbors and loved ones,” said Becerra.
But Precinct 4 Commissioner Walt Smith said this contract could save them money because the facility in Haskell County will provide transportation.
“Right now, the County spends almost $1 million a year simply transporting prisoners, from these inmates from other counties where we have them,” said Smith
Smith said the contract provides more bed space and may help the County stop outsourcing inmate supervision to so many other counties.
“Our county is growing exponentially fast, and unfortunately we’re looking at a corrections officer shortage, really, nationwide,” he said.
Even though the County is building another detention center, Smith said it still might not be enough.
“We’re in the middle of a jail expansion, and even once we get that expansion and renovation done, if we had every corrections officer available to staff that facility, it would still not be large enough for the number of prisoners that we currently hold,” said Smith.
But Martinez said the County should be making its investments elsewhere.
“We should really be talking about alternative to incarceration, not about how we are going to maintain the burgeoning growth of our jail population,” he said.
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