One reason the Sheriff believes his jail is filling up is due to the increased number of arrests made by the CCPD under Chief Troy Riggs.Grits has argued repeatedly that counties should defer new jail construction until they've actually implemented other policy changes to reduce overcrowding, and using the authority granted police under HB 2391 back in 2007 should be a minimalist first step. In counties where it's been implemented, the bulk of citations issued in lieu of arrests were for possession of small amounts of pot and driving with an invalid license. The latter charge has become ever-more common thanks to the Driver Responsibility surcharge, which has caused nearly 2 million drivers to lose their licenses, 1.2 million of whom still haven't paid off the debt, though most of them still drive.
Riggs said, "The Sheriff called me about this... he said so not worry... make this city safe."
Even with that assurance, Riggs says he is now considering changing policy to issue tickets for some minor offenses instead of arresting people.
One other solution is in the works.
A new facility currently under renovation, the McKenzie Jail Annex, could house about 50 extra inmates. The Sheriff's Department says it could open as soon as next month.
And as far as marijuana busts, an incident in a Nueces County court yesterday indicates that there may be nearly as great a risk of defendants continuing to smoke out even if they are arrested. Dozens of inmates allegedly smoked pot in the jail, according to statements in court by a defendant. When the Sheriff's Office was asked about the claim, "They didn't want to talk on camera, but law enforcement did say it's almost impossible to keep drugs completely out of the jail."
At last count, more than 10% of adult Texans had outstanding warrants for their arrest, so the truth is if police arrest everyone who is eligible, it would quickly overwhelm the system. With crime rates declining in Nueces County and population growth relatively stagnant, it's primarily decisions by public officials - police, prosecutors and judges - that's driving overcrowding in that jurisdiction. Making smarter decisions about who actually needs to be locked up is a better way to address the problem than more expensive brick and mortar solutions.
See prior, related Grits posts:
- Hays County will use expanded citation authority to reduce jail overcrowding
- Austin PD will finally implement citations for petty misdemeanors
- Smart policies can boost police coverage even in tight economy
- Long booking times a strong argument for police using new citation authority
- APD finally implementing B misdemeanor citation policy
- Police union backs using citation authority at Austin PD
- With safety costs rising, why won't Austin PD use new citation authority?
- Nuts and bolts of citations for low-level misdemeanors explained by Travis Sheriff's Office
- On the source of volitional jail overcrowding in Bexar County: Why solve a problem when you can create one?
- Tyler officials should listen to voters, use new tools to reduce jail overcrowding
- Sheriffs more likely than PDs to welcome new arrest discretion
- Jefferson County works out kinks with new cite and summons authority
- How one Texas county will take advantage of new law to reduce jail overcrowding
- HB 2391 could save Bexar taxpayers $10,000 per day
- Cite and summons for low-level offenses could free up jail space
- Texas Lege approved new tools to reduce jail overcrowding, if police can change their thinking