County Judge John Firth said recommendations made by TCJS staff are a 152-bed facility with the ability to expand to 500 beds over the next 20 years."That's way below what the commissioners and sheriff would be needing," Firth said.As a result, the court will send a letter to TCJS Executive Director Adan Munoz Jr. to counter the staff's recommendations."We disagree with the staff recommendation and will include a feasibility study that was done two years ago that said 250 beds with an expansion capability of up to 500 beds over the next 20-year period," Firth said."There's a break in there where it doesn't become cost-effective to spend the amount of money on a 197-bed facility based on in 20 years what we would spend sending them out versus what we will spend, and that 197 is not going to cover us for 20 years," Commissioner Elizabeth Taylor said.Commissioner Jack Wall said if the county decides on a private jail facility, "the secret number is 300.That's the number of beds we have to have."Firth will send a letter to Munoz with the county's recommendation of a minimum 250-bed facility that can expand up to 500 beds.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Coryell County seeks overbuilt jail to attract private vendor
In Coryell County (Gatesville), commissioners want to build a jail twice the size the Commission on Jail Standards says they need because they want to contract with a private prison contractor to lease out extra beds. Reports the Killeen Daily Herald (Dec. 29):
Counties overbuilding their jails to provide extra space for private vendors have sometimes seen that decision come back to bite them. Cameron County now ships pretrial detainees out of county because so many beds are taken up with contract prisoners, while Gregg County at one point had to stop arresting people for all but serious felonies for the same reason. In Lubbock, commissioners overbuilt their jail hoping to fill it with contract prisoners and now taxpayers must eat the extra costs. Exacerbating the situation, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stopped leasing beds from county jails because of its own successful efforts to keep the state prison population under control. And with immigration arrests down as a result of the flagging economy, demand for federal detention beds seems likely to decline in the near future.
As of December 1, Coryell County housed 75 prisoners in a facility designed for 92 - that's a far cry from the 250-300 beds commissioners want to build. The county would do well to scale back their jail building ambitions to focus exclusively on their own citizens' needs, not the needs of some prospective private vendor.