Sheriff Stan Parker says state prisons have been backed up forcing them to hold dozens of inmates for more than a month.Let's look at Howard County's most recent jail population data (pdf) from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. As of September 1, they had 73 people locked up in a jail designed to hold 96 inmates. Of those, just 9 had been convicted of felonies and were waiting to go to TDCJ. By contrast, the jail held 44 pretrial defendants, including 19 being held on misdemeanor charges. Just like other Texas jurisdictions, pretrial detention is the primary source of recent jail overcrowding in Howard County, but saying that implicates local judges and the commissioners court.
"It's frustrating for us because these people are sentenced, ready to go to jail, and you can't get them out of your jail, because they can't except them. But I understand it's not their fault they have this problem, because they're doing their job, just like we're doing ours," Howard County Sheriff Stan Parker, said.
Local officials are hoping the back up in the Texas prison system is solved. But Sheriff Parker says right now, that's not likely, and for now he says they're having to make adjustments.
The National Association of Counties recently put out a publication, Jail Population Management: Elected County Officials' Guide to Pretrial Services (pdf), that might might give Howard County officials a few more clues about how to address this problem than their Sheriff is presently providing them.
There are a lot of ways to skin that cat: Reduce bail or give more personal bonds, establish a day reporting center, use GPS tracking, divert mentally ill offenders to supervised treatment, get prosecutors to evaluate cases quicker, create a public defender office so indigent counsel is assigned sooner. The problem is, all those things require one or more local actors to change how they've traditionally done things, and no one ever wants to. So the Sheriff blames TDCJ, whose real contribution to the problem is minimal. That excuse in particular, though, is getting tired.